THE architects of NATO are remodeling the house without a blueprint.Disintegration in the Soviet Union, economic unity in Europe, and turmoil in the Middle East have replaced cold war between East and West. As a result, the security and defense concerns of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have changed from nuclear deterrence to crisis management. For 42 years NATO has been "the Atlantic link, the European pillar," United States Gen. John Galvin, supreme allied commander, told Monitor editors in a meeting recently. "Now the question is, how does that alliance deal with the future? What does it mean to link your structures," like the Western European Union (WEU) and the Economic Community (EC)? "I think what it means is that you don't try to plan that in detail for the future years. This is growing in an organic way, step by step." At a summit last month in Rome, NATO leaders developed a platform for building a new European defense and security structure that includes: r Communication links to Central and Eastern Europe. r An interlocking of the CFCE, WEU, EC, and NATO. r A new strategic concept that moves away from immediate defense against a massive attack to crisis management, protection of peace, and balance of power. This is a "complete change in NATO, which then calls for smaller forces, a variable readiness, multinationality, a basis more in force generation, controlled mobilization, and high mobility," General Galvin said. "Smaller forces is a very important contribution in lowering the level of confrontation." Amid rapid changes in European and Soviet order, the questions are many. As republics continue to break away from the Soviet Union, what kind of defense structures will they develop? Could the nine-nation Western European Union replace NATO as the main military structure for European defense? Should Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary be allowed to join NATO? How important is Turkey as a link between the Arab world and the West? How far can NATO take nuclear-force reductions? The answers to these questions hinge in part on US interests. "The US is committed to NATO with a fully deployed force," Galvin said. "For that commitment, we get a seat at the table. We get an influence in the shaping of the security situation in Europe, and that's what we want." On the issue of European security, for example, Galvin says the European Community is considering assimilating the WEU as a defense identity. The US might agree to such a link if the WEU were also connected to NATO. Galvin pointed to seven examples this year in which NATO forces have been used in ways consistent with the Rome platform. He cited the deployment of NATO forces in the Persian Gulf as part of the coalition against Iraq; deployment of NATO forces to Turkey under a United Nations coalition to aid the Kurds; the deployment of US, French, and Belgian forces to Zaire; efforts by NATO members to broker peace in Yugoslavia. The next step will be a summit later this month in Maastricht, the Netherlands, where European Community leaders will continue work on European defense.