Coordinates: 50°52′34.16″N 4°25′19.24″E / 50.8761556°N 4.4220111°E / 50.8761556; 4.4220111

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Organisation du Traité de l'Atlantique Nord

Flag of NATO[1]

NATO countries shown in green
Formation 4 April 1949
Type Military alliance
Headquarters Brussels, Belgium
Official languages English
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Chairman of the NATO Military Committee Giampaolo Di Paola

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO (play /ˈnt/ nay-toh; French: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique Nord (OTAN)), also called the (North) Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on 4 April 1949. The NATO headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium,[3] and the organization constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.

For its first few years, NATO was not much more than a political association. However, the Korean War galvanized the member states, and an integrated military structure was built up under the direction of two U.S. supreme commanders. The first NATO Secretary General, Lord Ismay, famously stated the organization's goal was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down".[4] Doubts over the strength of the relationship between the European states and the United States ebbed and flowed, along with doubts over the credibility of the NATO defence against a prospective Soviet invasion—doubts that led to the development of the independent French nuclear deterrent and the withdrawal of the French from NATO's military structure in 1966.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the organization became drawn into the Breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s which resulted in NATO's first military operations in Bosnia from 1991 to 1995 and later Yugoslavia in 1999. Politically, the organisation sought better relations with former potential enemies to the east, which culminated with several former Warsaw Pact states joining the alliance in 1999 and 2004. The September 2001 attacks signalled the only occasion in NATO's history that Article 5 of the NATO treaty has been invoked and consequently the 11 September attacks were deemed to be an attack on all nineteen NATO members.[5] After 11 September, troops were deployed to Afghanistan under the NATO-led ISAF and the organization continues to operate in a range of roles sending trainers to Iraq, assisting in counter-piracy operations[6] and most recently enforced a NATO-led no-fly zone over Libya in 2011 in accordance with UN SC Resolution 1973.

The Berlin Plus agreement is a comprehensive package of agreements made between NATO and the European Union on 16 December 2002. With this agreement the EU was given the possibility to use NATO assets in case it wanted to act independently in an international crisis, on the condition that NATO itself did not want to act—the so-called "right of first refusal".[7] There are currently 28 member states of NATO, with the most recent being Albania and Croatia who joined in April 2009.[8] The combined military spending of all NATO members constitutes over 70% of the world's defence spending.[9] The United States alone accounts for 43% of the total military spending of the world[10] and the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy account for a further 15%.[9]




The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in Washington, D.C., on 4 April 1949 and was ratified by the United States that August.

The Treaty of Brussels, signed on 17 March 1948 by Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and the United Kingdom, is considered the precursor to the NATO agreement. The treaty and the Soviet Berlin Blockade led to the creation of the Western European Union's Defence Organization in September 1948.[11] However, participation of the United States was thought necessary to counter the military power of the USSR, and talks for a new military alliance began almost immediately.

These talks resulted in the North Atlantic Treaty, signed in Washington, D.C. on 4 April 1949. It included the five Treaty of Brussels states plus the United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Popular support for the Treaty was not unanimous; some Icelanders commenced a pro-neutrality, anti-membership riot in March 1949.

The members agreed that an armed attack against any one of them in Europe or North America[note 1] would be considered an attack against them all. Consequently they agreed that, if an armed attack occurred, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence, would assist the member being attacked, taking such action as it deemed necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

The treaty does not require members to respond militarily action against aggressor. Although obliged to respond, they maintain the freedom to choose the method. This differs from Article IV of the Treaty of Brussels, which clearly states that the response will be military in nature. It is nonetheless assumed that NATO members will aid the attacked member militarily. Further, the North Atlantic Treaty limits the organization's scope to regions above the Tropic of Cancer,[note 1] which explains why the Falklands War did not result in NATO involvement.

The creation of NATO brought about some standardization of allied military terminology, procedures, and technology, which in many cases meant European countries adopting U.S. practices. The roughly 1300 Standardization Agreements (STANAGs) codifies the standardization that NATO has achieved. Hence, the 7.62×51 NATO rifle cartridge was introduced in the 1950s as a standard firearm cartridge among many NATO countries. Fabrique Nationale de Herstal's FAL became the most popular 7.62 NATO rifle in Europe and served into the early 1990s. Also, aircraft marshalling signals were standardized, so that any NATO aircraft could land at any NATO base. Other standards such as the NATO phonetic alphabet have made their way beyond NATO into civilian use.

Cold War

The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 was crucial for NATO as it raised the apparent threat level greatly (all Communist countries were suspected of working together) and forced the alliance to develop concrete military plans.[12] The 1952 Lisbon conference, seeking to provide the forces necessary for NATO's Long-Term Defence Plan, called for an expansion to ninety-six divisions. However this requirement was dropped the following year to roughly thirty-five divisions with heavier use to be made of nuclear weapons. At this time, NATO could call on about fifteen ready divisions in Central Europe, and another ten in Italy and Scandinavia.[13] Also at Lisbon, the post of Secretary General of NATO as the organization's chief civilian was also created, and Baron Hastings Ismay eventually appointed to the post.[14]

The German Bundeswehr provided the largest element of the allied land forces guarding the frontier in Central Europe; 12 of 26 divisions in 1985.

In September 1952, the first major NATO maritime exercises began; Operation Mainbrace brought together 200 ships and over 50,000 personnel to practice the defence of Denmark and Norway. Other major exercises that followed included Operation Grand Slam, NATO's first naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, 'Mariner,' which involved convoy protection, naval control of shipping, and striking fleet operations in the North Atlantic, Italic Weld, a combined air-naval-ground exercise in northern Italy, Grand Repulse, involving the British Army on the Rhine (BAOR), the Netherlands Corps and Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE), Monte Carlo a simulated atomic air-ground exercise involving the Central Army Group, and Weldfast, a combined amphibious landing exercise in the Mediterranean Sea involving British, Greek, Italian, Turkish, and U.S. naval forces.

Greece and Turkey also joined the alliance in 1952, forcing a series of controversial negotiations, in which the United States and Britain were the primary disputants, over how to bring the two countries into the military command structure.[15] Meanwhile, while this overt military preparation was going on, covert stay-behind arrangements to continue resistance after a successful Soviet invasion ('Operation Gladio'), initially made by the Western European Union, were being transferred to NATO control. Ultimately unofficial bonds began to grow between NATO's armed forces, such as the NATO Tiger Association and competitions such as the Canadian Army Trophy for tank gunnery.

In 1954, the Soviet Union suggested that it should join NATO to preserve peace in Europe.[16] The NATO countries, fearing that the Soviet Union's motive was to weaken the alliance, ultimately rejected this proposal. The incorporation of West Germany into the organization on 9 May 1955 was described as "a decisive turning point in the history of our continent" by Halvard Lange, Foreign Minister of Norway at the time.[17] A major reason for Germany's entry into the alliance was that without German manpower, it would have been impossible to field enough conventional forces to resist a Soviet invasion.[18] Indeed, one of its immediate results was the creation of the Warsaw Pact, signed on 14 May 1955 by the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and East Germany, as a formal response to this event, thereby delineating the two opposing sides of the Cold War.

Three major exercises were held concurrently in the northern autumn of 1957. Operation Counter Punch, Operation Strikeback, and Operation Deep Water were the most ambitious military undertaking for the alliance to date, involving more than 250,000 men, 300 ships, and 1,500 aircraft operating from Norway to Turkey.[19]

French withdrawal from NATO command

Map of the NATO air bases in France before Charles de Gaulle's 1966 withdrawal from NATO military integrated command

NATO's unity was breached early in its history with a crisis occurring during Charles de Gaulle's presidency of France starting in 1958. De Gaulle protested the United States' strong role in the organization and what he perceived as a special relationship between it and the United Kingdom. In a memorandum sent to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on 17 September 1958, he argued for the creation of a tripartite directorate that would put France on an equal footing with the US and UK, and also for expanding NATO's coverage to include areas of interest to France, most notably French Algeria, where France was waging a counter-insurgency and sought NATO assistance.

Considering the response he received to his memorandum unsatisfactory, de Gaulle began constructing an independent defense force for his country. He wanted to give France, in the event of an East German incursion into West Germany, the option of coming to a separate peace with the Eastern bloc instead of being drawn into a NATO-Warsaw Pact general war. On 11 March 1959, France withdrew its Mediterranean Fleet from NATO command; three months later he banned the stationing of foreign nuclear weapons on French soil. This caused the United States to transfer two hundred military aircraft out of France and return control of the ten major air force bases that had operated in France since 1950 to the French by 1967.

Though France showed solidarity with the rest of NATO during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, de Gaulle continued his pursuit of an independent defence by removing France's Atlantic and Channel fleets from NATO command. In 1966, all French armed forces were removed from NATO's integrated military command, and all non-French NATO troops were asked to leave France. This withdrawal forced the relocation of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) from Rocquencourt, near Paris, to Casteau, north of Mons, Belgium, by 16 October 1967. France remained a member of the alliance, and committed to the defence of Europe from possible Communist attack with its own forces stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany throughout the Cold War. A series of secret accords between U.S. and French officials, the Lemnitzer-Ailleret Agreements, detailed how French forces would dovetail back into NATO's command structure should East-West hostilities break out.[20]

Détente and escalation

Détente led to many high level meetings between leaders from both NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

During most of the Cold War, NATO maintained a holding pattern with no actual military engagement as an organization. On 1 July 1968, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty opened for signature: NATO argued that its nuclear sharing arrangements did not breach the treaty as U.S. forces controlled the weapons until a decision was made to go to war, at which point the treaty would no longer be controlling. Few states knew of the NATO nuclear sharing arrangements at that time, and they were not challenged.

On 30 May 1978, NATO countries officially defined two complementary aims of the Alliance, to maintain security and pursue détente. This was supposed to mean matching defences at the level rendered necessary by the Warsaw Pact's offensive capabilities without spurring a further arms race.

On 12 December 1979, in light of a build-up of Warsaw Pact nuclear capabilities in Europe, ministers approved the deployment of U.S. GLCM cruise missiles and Pershing II theatre nuclear weapons in Europe. The new warheads were also meant to strengthen the western negotiating position regarding nuclear disarmament. This policy was called the Dual Track policy. Similarly, in 1983–84, responding to the stationing of Warsaw Pact SS-20 medium-range missiles in Europe, NATO deployed modern Pershing II missiles tasked to hit military targets such as tank formations in the event of war. This action led to peace movement protests throughout Western Europe.

During the Cold War, most of Europe was divided between two alliances. Members of NATO are shown in blue, with members of the Warsaw Pact in red.

With the background of the build-up of tension between the Soviet Union and the United States, NATO decided, under the impetus of the Reagan presidency, to deploy Pershing II and cruise missiles in Western Europe, primarily West Germany. These missiles were theatre nuclear weapons intended to strike targets on the battlefield if the Soviets invaded West Germany. Yet support for the deployment was wavering and many doubted whether the push for deployment could be sustained. On 1 September 1983, the Soviet Union shot down a Korean passenger airliner when it crossed into Soviet airspace—an act which Reagan characterized as a "massacre". The barbarity of this act, as the U.S. and indeed the world understood it, galvanized support for the deployment—which stood in place until the later accords between Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

The membership of the organization at this time remained largely static. In 1974, as a consequence of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Greece withdrew its forces from NATO's military command structure but, with Turkish cooperation, were readmitted in 1980. On 30 May 1982, NATO gained a new member when, following a referendum, the newly democratic Spain joined the alliance.

In November 1983, NATO manoeuvres simulating a nuclear launch caused panic in the Kremlin. The Soviet leadership, led by ailing General Secretary Yuri Andropov, became concerned that the manoeuvres, codenamed Able Archer 83, were the beginnings of a genuine first strike. In response, Soviet nuclear forces were readied and air units in East Germany and Poland were placed on alert. Though at the time written off by U.S. intelligence as a propaganda effort, many historians now believe that the Soviet fear of a NATO first strike was genuine.[citation needed]

Post Cold War

The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 removed the de facto main adversary of NATO. This caused a strategic re-evaluation of NATO's purpose, nature and tasks. In practice this ended up entailing a gradual (and still ongoing) expansion of NATO to Eastern Europe, as well as the extension of its activities to areas that had not formerly been NATO concerns.

Reforms made under Mikhail Gorbachev led to the end of the Warsaw Pact.

The first post–Cold War expansion of NATO came with German reunification on 3 October 1990, when the former East Germany became part of the Federal Republic of Germany and the alliance. This had been agreed in the Two Plus Four Treaty earlier in the year. To secure Soviet approval of a united Germany remaining in NATO, it was agreed that foreign troops and nuclear weapons would not be stationed in the east. The scholar Stephen F. Cohen argued in 2005 that a commitment was given that NATO would never expand further east,[21] but according to Robert Zoellick, then a State Department official involved in the Two Plus Four negotiating process, this appears to be a misperception; no formal commitment of the sort was made.[22] In May 2008, Gorbachev repeated his view that such a commitment had been made, and that "the Americans promised that NATO wouldn't move beyond the boundaries of Germany after the Cold War".[23]

On 10 and 11 April 1994, during the Bosnian War, the United Nations Protection Force called in air strikes to protect the Goražde safe area, resulting in the bombing of a Serbian military command outpost near Goražde by 2 US F-16 jets acting under NATO direction.[24][25][26] This was the first time in NATO's history it had ever done so.[26] This resulted in the taking of 150 U.N. personnel hostage on 14 April.[24][25] On 16 April a British Sea Harrier was shot down over Goražde by Serb forces.[26]

As part of post–Cold War restructuring, NATO's military structure was cut back and reorganized, with new forces such as the Headquarters Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps established. The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe agreed between NATO and the Warsaw Pact and signed in Paris in 1990, mandated specific reductions. The changes brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union on the military balance in Europe were recognized in the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, signed some years later. France rejoined NATO's Military Committee in 1995, and since then has intensified working relations with the military structure. The policies of French President Nicolas Sarkozy have resulted in a major reform of France's military position, culminating with the return to full membership on 4 April 2009, which also included France rejoining the integrated military command of NATO, while maintaining an independent nuclear deterrent.[27]

NATO has added 12 new members since German Reunification and the end of the Cold War.

New NATO structures were also formed while old ones were abolished: The NATO Response Force (NRF) was launched at the 2002 Prague summit on 21 November. On 19 June 2003, a major restructuring of the NATO military commands began as the Headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic were abolished and a new command, Allied Command Transformation (ACT), was established in Norfolk, Virginia, United States, and the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) became the Headquarters of Allied Command Operations (ACO). ACT is responsible for driving transformation (future capabilities) in NATO, whilst ACO is responsible for current operations.

Membership went on expanding with the accession of seven more Northern and Eastern European countries to NATO: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. They were first invited to start talks of membership during the 2002 Prague Summit, and joined NATO on 29 March 2004, shortly before the 2004 Istanbul summit. The same month, NATO's Baltic Air Policing began, which supported the sovereignty of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia by providing fighters to react to any unwanted aerial intrusions. Four fighters are based in Lithuania, provided in rotation by virtually all the NATO states. Operation Peaceful Summit temporarily enhanced this patrolling during the 2006 Riga summit.[28]

The 2006 Riga summit was held in Riga, Latvia, which had joined the Atlantic Alliance two years earlier. It is the first NATO summit to be held in a country that was part of the Soviet Union, and the second one in a former Comecon country (after the 2002 Prague summit). Energy Security was one of the main themes of the Riga Summit.[29] At the April 2008 summit in Bucharest, Romania, NATO agreed to the accession of Croatia and Albania and invited them to join. Both countries joined NATO in April 2009. Ukraine and Georgia were also told that they will eventually become members.[30]

Missile defence

For some years, the United States negotiated with Poland and the Czech Republic for the deployment of interceptor missiles and a radar tracking system in the two countries against wishes of local population.[31] Both countries' governments indicated that they would allow the deployment. In August 2008, Poland and the United States signed a preliminary deal to place part of the missile defence shield in Poland that would be linked to air-defence radar in the Czech Republic.[32] In answer to this agreement, more than 130,000 Czechs signed a petition for a referendum on the base, which is by far the largest citizen initiative since the Velvet Revolution, but it has been refused.[33] The proposed American missile defence site in Central Europe is expected to be fully operational by 2015 and would be capable of covering most of Europe except parts of Romania plus Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.[34]

The NATO Secretary General, the U.S. President, and the Prime Ministers of Latvia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Estonia after a ceremony welcoming them into NATO on 29 March 2004 at the Istanbul Summit

In April 2007, NATO's European allies called for a NATO missile defence system which would complement the American national missile defense system to protect Europe from missile attacks and NATO's decision-making North Atlantic Council held consultations on missile defence in the first meeting on the topic at such a senior level.[34] In response, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin claimed that such a deployment could lead to a new arms race and could enhance the likelihood of mutual destruction. He also suggested that his country would freeze its compliance with the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE)—which limits military deployments across the continent—until all NATO countries had ratified the adapted CFE treaty.[35] Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer claimed the system would not affect strategic balance or threaten Russia, as the plan is to base only ten interceptor missiles in Poland with an associated radar in the Czech Republic.[36]

On 14 July 2007, Russia gave notice of its intention to suspend the CFE treaty, effective 150 days later.[37][38] On 14 August 2008, the United States and Poland came to an agreement to place a base with ten interceptor missiles with associated MIM-104 Patriot air defence systems in Poland. This came at a time when tension was high between Russia and most of NATO and resulted in a nuclear threat on Poland by Russia if the building of the missile defences went ahead. On 20 August 2008 the United States and Poland signed the agreement, with a statement from Russia saying their response "Will Go Beyond Diplomacy" and is an "extremely dangerous bundle" of military projects." Also, on 20 August 2008, Russia sent word to Norway that it was suspending ties with NATO.[39]

On 17 September 2009, US President Barack Obama announced that the planned deployment of long-range missile defence interceptors and equipment in Poland and the Czech Republic was not to go forward, and that a defence against short- and medium-range missiles using AEGIS warships would be deployed instead.[40] The announcement prompted varying reactions – in Central and Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, response was largely negative; while the Russian response was largely positive.[41] Following the announcement, Russian President Dimitri Medvedev announced that a planned Russian Iskander surface to surface missile deployment in nearby Kaliningrad was also not to go ahead. The two deployment cancellation announcements were later followed with a statement by newly named NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen calling for a strategic partnership between Russia and the Alliance, explicitly involving technological cooperation of the two parties' missile defence systems.[42]

Military operations

Balkans interventions

Bosnian War

NATO planes engaged in aerial bombardments during Operation Deliberate Force after the Srebrenica massacre

The Bosnian War began in 1992, as a result of the Breakup of Yugoslavia. NATO intervention began on 12 April 1993 with Operation Deny Flight, enforcing a no-fly zone under UN mandate over central Bosnia and Herzegovina until December 1995, the end of the war. In June 1993, Operation Sharp Guard commenced, and ran until October 1996. It provided maritime enforcement of the arms embargo and economic sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On 28 February 1994, NATO took its first military action, shooting down four Bosnian Serb aircraft violating the no-fly zone. A NATO bombing campaign, Operation Deliberate Force, began in August 1995, against the Army of the Republika Srpska, after the Srebrenica massacre.

NATO air strikes that year helped bring the Yugoslav wars to an end, resulting in the Dayton Agreement. As part of this agreement, NATO deployed a UN-mandated peacekeeping force, under Operation Joint Endeavor, first named IFOR and then SFOR, which ran from December 1996 to December 2004. Following the lead of its member nations, NATO began to award a service medal, the NATO Medal, for these operations.

Between 1994 and 1997, wider forums for regional cooperation between NATO and its neighbors were set up, like the Partnership for Peace, the Mediterranean Dialogue initiative and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. On 8 July 1997, three former communist countries, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland, were invited to join NATO, which finally happened in 1999. In 1998, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council was established.

Kosovo War

On 24 March 1999, NATO saw its first broad-scale military engagement in the Kosovo War, where it waged an 11-week bombing campaign, which NATO called Operation Allied Force, against what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in an effort to stop Serbian-led crackdown on Albanian civilians in Kosovo. A formal declaration of war never took place (in common with all wars since World War II). The conflict ended on 11 June 1999, when Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milošević agreed to NATO's demands by accepting UN resolution 1244. During the crisis, NATO also deployed one of its international reaction forces, the ACE Mobile Force (Land), to Albania as the Albania Force (AFOR), to deliver humanitarian aid to refugees from Kosovo.[43] NATO then helped establish the KFOR, a NATO-led force under a United Nations mandate that operated the military mission in Kosovo. In August–September 2001, the alliance also mounted Operation Essential Harvest, a mission disarming ethnic Albanian militias in the Republic of Macedonia.[44]

The United States, the United Kingdom, and most other NATO countries opposed efforts to require the U.N. Security Council to approve NATO military strikes, such as the action against Serbia in 1999, while France and some others claimed that the alliance needed UN approval. The U.S./UK side claimed that this would undermine the authority of the alliance, and they noted that Russia and China would have exercised their Security Council vetoes to block the strike on Yugoslavia, and could do the same in future conflicts where NATO intervention was required, thus nullifying the entire potency and purpose of the organization. Recognizing the post–Cold War military environment, NATO adopted the Alliance Strategic Concept during its Washington Summit in April 1999 that emphasized conflict prevention and crisis management.[45]

Operations in Afghanistan

The 11 September attacks in the United States caused NATO to invoke its collective defence article for the first time.

The 11 September attacks in the United States caused NATO to invoke Article 5 of the NATO Charter for the first time in its history. The Article says that an attack on any member shall be considered to be an attack on all. The invocation was confirmed on 4 October 2001 when NATO determined that the attacks were indeed eligible under the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty.[46] The eight official actions taken by NATO in response to the attacks included Operation Eagle Assist and Operation Active Endeavour, a naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea and is designed to prevent the movement of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction as well as to enhance the security of shipping in general which began on 4 October 2001.

Despite this early show of solidarity, NATO faced a crisis little more than a year later, when on 10 February 2003, France and Belgium vetoed the procedure of silent approval concerning the timing of protective measures for Turkey in case of a possible war with Iraq. Germany did not use its right to break the procedure but said it supported the veto.

NATO's military terminal at Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan.

On the issue of Afghanistan on the other hand, the alliance showed greater unity: on 16 April 2003, NATO agreed to take command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The decision came at the request of Germany and the Netherlands, the two nations leading ISAF at the time of the agreement, and all nineteen NATO ambassadors approved it unanimously. The handover of control to NATO took place on 11 August, and marked the first time in NATO's history that it took charge of a mission outside the north Atlantic area. Canada had originally been slated to take over ISAF by itself on that date.

In August 2003, NATO commenced its first mission ever outside Europe when it assumed control over International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. ISAF was initially charged with securing Kabul and surrounding areas from the Taliban, al Qaeda and factional warlords, so as to allow for the establishment of the Afghan Transitional Administration headed by Hamid Karzai.[47] In October 2003, the UN Security Council authorized the expansion of the ISAF mission throughout Afghanistan,[48] and ISAF subsequently expanded the mission in four main stages over the whole of the country.[49] Since 2006, ISAF has been involved in more intensive combat operations in southern Afghanistan, a tendency which continued in 2007 and 2008. Attacks on ISAF in other parts of Afghanistan are also mounting.

In January 2004, NATO appointed Minister Hikmet Çetin, of Turkey, as the Senior Civilian Representative (SCR) in Afghanistan. Minister Cetin is primarily responsible for advancing the political-military aspects of the Alliance in Afghanistan. On 31 July 2006, a NATO-led force, made up mostly of troops from Canada, the United Kingdom, Turkey and the Netherlands, took over military operations in the south of Afghanistan from a U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition.

Due to the intensity of the fighting in the south, France has recently allowed a squadron of Mirage 2000 fighter/attack aircraft to be moved into the area, to Kandahar, in order to reinforce the alliance's efforts.[50] If these caveats were to be eliminated, it is argued that this could help NATO to succeed. NATO is also training the military of Afghanistan and the Afghan National Police to be better equipped in forcing out the Taliban.

Training mission in Iraq

In August 2004, during the Iraq War, NATO formed the NATO Training Mission – Iraq, a training mission to assist the Iraqi security forces in conjunction with the U.S. led MNF-I.[51] The NATO Training Mission-Iraq (NTM-I) was established at the request of the Iraqi Interim Government under the provisions of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546. The aim of NTM-I is to assist in the development of Iraqi security forces training structures and institutions so that Iraq can build an effective and sustainable capability that addresses the needs of the nation. NTM-I is not a combat mission but is a distinct mission, under the political control of NATO's North Atlantic Council. Its operational emphasis is on training and mentoring. The activities of the mission are coordinated with Iraqi authorities and the U.S.-led Deputy Commanding General Advising and Training, who is also dual-hatted as the Commander of NTM-I.

Operation Ocean Shield

Beginning on 17 August 2009, NATO deployed warships in an operation to protect maritime traffic in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean from Somali pirates.[52]

Operations in Libya

Libyan Army Palmaria howitzers destroyed by the French Air Force near Benghazi on 19 March 2011

During the 2011 Libyan uprising, violence between protestors and the Libyan government under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi escalated, and on 17 March 2011 led to the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which called for a ceasefire, and authorized military action to protect civilians. A coalition that included several NATO members began enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya shortly afterwards. On 20 March 2011, NATO states agreed on enforcing an arms embargo against Libya with Operation Unified Protector using ships from NATO Standing Maritime Group 1 and Standing Mine Countermeasures Group 1,[53] and additional ships and submarines from NATO members.[54] They would "monitor, report and, if needed, interdict vessels suspected of carrying illegal arms or mercenaries".[53] On 24 March, NATO agreed to take control of the no-fly zone from the initial coalition, while command of targeting ground units remains with the coalition's forces.[55][56][57] NATO began officially enforcing the UN resolution on 27 March 2011 with assistance from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.[58]

By June, reports of divisions within the alliance surfaced as only eight of the 28 member nations[59] were participating in combat operations, resulting in a confrontation between U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and countries such as Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey, and Germany to contribute more, the latter believing the organization has overstepped its mandate in the conflict.[60][61][62] In his final policy speech in Brussels on 10 June, Gates further criticized allied countries in suggesting their actions could cause the demise of NATO.[63] The German foreign ministry pointed to "a considerable [German] contribution to NATO and NATO-led operations" and to the fact that this engagement was highly valued by President Obama.[64]

While the mission was extended into September, Norway that day announced it would begin scaling down contributions and complete withdrawal by 1 August.[65] Earlier in the week it was reported Danish air fighters were running out of bombs.[66][67] The following week, the head of the Royal Navy said the country's operations in the conflict were not sustainable.[68] By October 2011, NATO planes had flown about 9,500 strike sorties against pro-Gaddafi targets.[69]

NATO plans to end its air mission in Libya on 31 October 2011. A political scientist said France and Great Britain were dominant in the attack on Libya, but the operation would not have been possible without U.S. support. "This was a success, but it does not guarantee NATO's long-term viability."[70]


Map of NATO affiliations in Europe
NATO affiliations in Europe.svg
  Members of NATO
  Membership Action Plan
Individual Partnership Action Plan
Partnership for Peace

NATO has added new members seven times since first forming in 1949 (the last two in 2009). NATO comprises 28 members: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Future enlargement

New membership in the alliance has been largely from Eastern Europe and the Balkans, including former members of the Warsaw Pact. At the 2008 summit in Bucharest, three countries were promised future invitations: the Republic of Macedonia,[71] Georgia and Ukraine.[72] Though it has completed the requirements for membership, the accession of Macedonia is blocked by Greece, pending resolution of the Macedonia naming dispute.[73] Cyprus also has not progressed toward further relations, in part because of opposition from Turkey.[74]

Other potential candidate countries include Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which joined the Adriatic Charter of potential members in 2008.[75] Russia, as referred to above, continues to oppose further expansion, seeing it as inconsistent with understandings between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H. W. Bush that allowed for a peaceful German reunification. NATO's expansion policy is seen by Moscow as a continuation of a Cold War attempt to surround and isolate Russia.[76]

Expenditures and strength

From "Data Relating to NATO Defence", estimates for 2010:[77]

Country Defence expenditures,
million USD
Defence expenditures,
% of GDP at current prices
Defence expenditures,
USD per capita
Deployable military
in thousands
 Albania 242 2.0 39 10
 Belgium 5,238 1.1 274 34
 Bulgaria 832 1.7 45 30
 Canada 23,736 1.5 392 55
 Croatia 923 1.5 102 16
 Czech Republic 2,672 1.4 102 24
 Denmark 4,486 1.4 452 18
 Estonia 333 1.8 107 5
 France 52,017 2.0 465 234
 Germany 45,116 1.4 345 246
 Greece 8,860 2.9 406 128
 Hungary 1,355 1.1 60 20
 Italy 28,189 1.4 170 193
 Latvia 242 1.0 49 5
 Lithuania 329 0.9 52 8
 Luxembourg 267 0.5 291 0.9
 Netherlands 11,357 1.4 374 48
 Norway 6,393 1.5 660 20
 Poland 8,836 1.9 123 100
 Portugal 3,682 1.6 189 43
 Romania 2,140 1.3 34 69
 Slovakia 1,098 1.3 76 14
 Slovenia 772 1.6 208 7
 Spain 15,335 1.1 169 131
 Turkey 14,197 1.9 96 495
 UK 60,438 2.7 731 198
 USA 785,831 5.4 1,947 1,427
 NATO 1,084,915 3.5 860 3,579
  • a Iceland has no armed forces.

Cooperation with non-member states

Euro-Atlantic Partnership

A double framework has been established to help further co-operation between the 28 NATO members and 22 "partner countries".

  • The Partnership for Peace (PfP) program was established in 1994 and is based on individual bilateral relations between each partner country and NATO: each country may choose the extent of its participation. The PfP program is considered the operational wing of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership.[78] Members include all current and former members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Belarus joined NATO's Partnership for Peace in 1995.[79]
  • The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) was first established on 29 May 1997, and is a forum for regular coordination, consultation and dialogue between all fifty participants.[80]
Partnership for Peace Mediterranean
Contact countries Map of NATO Partnerships
Commonwealth of
Independent States
Other Cold War
socialist economies
Militarily neutral Cold
War capitalist economies
 Armenia Yugoslavia  Austria  Algeria  Australia
NATO Cooperations Partners.png
 Azerbaijan  Bosnia & Herzegovina  Finland  Egypt  Japan
 Belarus  Macedonia  Ireland  Israel  New Zealand
 Kazakhstan  Montenegro  Malta  Jordan  South Korea
 Kyrgyzstan  Serbia  Sweden  Mauritania  
 Moldova Soviet Union  Switzerland  Morocco
 Russia  Georgia    Tunisia
 Tajikistan  Turkmenistan  
  NATO member states
  Partnership for Peace
 Uzbekistan  Ukraine
  Mediterranean Dialogue
  Contact countries
  • The Mediterranean Dialogue was established in 1994 to coordinate in a similar way with Israel and countries in North Africa.
  • Other third countries also have been contacted for participation in some activities of the PfP framework such as Afghanistan.[82]

Individual Partnership Action Plans

Individual Partnership Action Plans were launched at the 2002 Summit in Prague.

Launched at the November 2002 Prague Summit, Individual Partnership Action Plans (IPAPs) are open to countries that have the political will and ability to deepen their relationship with NATO.[83]

Currently IPAPs are in implementation with the following countries:

  •  Ukraine (22 November 2002)[84]
  •  Georgia (29 October 2004)
  •  Azerbaijan (27 May 2005)
  •  Armenia (16 December 2005)
  •  Kazakhstan (31 January 2006)
  •  Moldova (19 May 2006)
  •  Bosnia and Herzegovina (10 January 2008)
  •  Montenegro (June 2008)

Contact countries

Since 1990–91, the Alliance has gradually increased its contact with countries that do not form part of any of the above cooperative groupings. Political dialogue with Japan began in 1990, and a range of non-NATO countries have contributed to peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia.

The Allies established a set of general guidelines on relations with other countries, beyond the above groupings in 1998.[85] The guidelines do not allow for a formal institutionalization of relations, but reflect the Allies' desire to increase cooperation. Following extensive debate, the term Contact Countries was agreed by the Allies in 2000. The following countries currently have this status:

  •  Australia (AUSCANNZUKUS)
  •  New Zealand (AUSCANNZUKUS)
  •  Japan
  •  South Korea


Anders Fogh Rasmussen took over as Secretary General of NATO in August 2009.

The main headquarters of NATO is located on Boulevard Léopold III, B-1110 Brussels, which is in Haren, part of the City of Brussels municipality.[86] A new headquarters building is, as of 2010, in construction nearby, due for completion by 2015.[87] The design is an adaptation of the original award-winning scheme designed by Michel Mossessian and his team when he was a Design Partner with SOM.[88]

The staff at the Headquarters is composed of national delegations of member countries and includes civilian and military liaison offices and officers or diplomatic missions and diplomats of partner countries, as well as the International Staff and International Military Staff filled from serving members of the armed forces of member states.[89] Non-governmental citizens' groups have also grown up in support of NATO, broadly under the banner of the Atlantic Council/Atlantic Treaty Association movement.

NATO Council

Like any alliance, NATO is ultimately governed by its 28 member states. However, the North Atlantic Treaty, and other agreements, outline how decisions are to be made within NATO. Each of the 28 members sends a delegation or mission to NATO's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.[90] The senior permanent member of each delegation is known as the Permanent Representative and is generally a senior civil servant or an experienced ambassador (and holding that diplomatic rank). Several countries have diplomatic missions to NATO through embassies in Belgium.

Together, the Permanent Members form the North Atlantic Council (NAC), a body which meets together at least once a week and has effective governance authority and powers of decision in NATO. From time to time the Council also meets at higher level meetings involving foreign ministers, defence ministers or heads of state or government (HOSG) and it is at these meetings that major decisions regarding NATO's policies are generally taken. However, it is worth noting that the Council has the same authority and powers of decision-making, and its decisions have the same status and validity, at whatever level it meets. NATO summits also form a further venue for decisions on complex issues, such as enlargement.

The meetings of the North Atlantic Council are chaired by the Secretary General of NATO and, when decisions have to be made, action is agreed upon on the basis of unanimity and common accord. There is no voting or decision by majority. Each nation represented at the Council table or on any of its subordinate committees retains complete sovereignty and responsibility for its own decisions.

List of Secretaries General[91]
# Name Country Duration
1 General Lord Ismay  United Kingdom 4 April 1952 – 16 May 1957
2 Paul-Henri Spaak  Belgium 16 May 1957 – 21 April 1961
3 Dirk Stikker  Netherlands 21 April 1961 – 1 August 1964
4 Manlio Brosio  Italy 1 August 1964 – 1 October 1971
5 Joseph Luns  Netherlands 1 October 1971 – 25 June 1984
6 Lord Carrington  United Kingdom 25 June 1984 – 1 July 1988
7 Manfred Wörner  Germany 1 July 1988 – 13 August 1994
Sergio Balanzino (acting)  Italy 13 August 1994 – 17 October 1994
8 Willy Claes  Belgium 17 October 1994 – 20 October 1995
Sergio Balanzino (acting)  Italy 20 October 1995 – 5 December 1995
9 Javier Solana  Spain 5 December 1995 – 6 October 1999
10 Lord Robertson  United Kingdom 14 October 1999 – 17 December 2003
Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo (acting)  Italy 17 December 2003 – 1 January 2004
11 Jaap de Hoop Scheffer  Netherlands 1 January 2004 – 1 August 2009
12 Anders Fogh Rasmussen  Denmark 1 August 2009–present
List of Deputy Secretaries General[92]
# Name Country Duration
1 Jonkheer van Vredenburch  Netherlands 1952–1956
2 Baron Adolph Bentinck  Netherlands 1956–1958
3 Alberico Casardi  Italy 1958–1962
4 Guido Colonna di Paliano  Italy 1962–1964
5 James A. Roberts  Canada 1964–1968
6 Osman Olcay  Turkey 1969–1971
7 Paolo Pansa Cedronio  Italy 1971–1978
8 Rinaldo Petrignani  Italy 1978–1981
9 Eric da Rin  Italy 1981–1985
10 Marcello Guidi  Italy 1985–1989
11 Amedeo de Franchis  Italy 1989–1994
12 Sergio Balanzino  Italy 1994–2001
13 Alessandro Minuto Rizzo  Italy 2001–2007
14 Claudio Bisogniero  Italy 2007–present

NATO Parliamentary Assembly

NATO Ministers of Defense and of Foreign Affairs meet at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

The body that sets broad strategic goals for NATO is the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO-PA) which meets at the Annual Session, and one other during the year, and is the organ that directly interacts with the parliamentary structures of the national governments of the member states which appoint Permanent Members, or ambassadors to NATO. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly, currently presided by John S. Tanner, a U.S. Representative (Democratic Party) from Tennessee, is made up of legislators from the member countries of the North Atlantic Alliance as well as thirteen associate members.[93] It is however officially a different structure from NATO, and has as aim to join together deputies of NATO countries in order to discuss security policies on the NATO Council.

The Assembly is the political integration body of NATO that generates political policy agenda setting for the NATO Council via reports of its five committees:

  • Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security
  • Defence and Security Committee
  • Economics and Security Committee
  • Political Committee
  • Science and Technology Committee

These reports provide impetus and direction as agreed upon by the national governments of the member states through their own national political processes and influencers to the NATO administrative and executive organizational entities.

Military structures

NATO E-3A flying with US F-16s in a NATO exercise

The second pivotal member of each country's delegation is the Military Representative, a senior officer from each country's armed forces, supported by the International Military Staff. Together the Military Representatives form the Military Committee, a body responsible for recommending to NATO's political authorities those measures considered necessary for the common defence of the NATO area. Its principal role is to provide direction and advice on military policy and strategy. It provides guidance on military matters to the NATO Strategic Commanders, whose representatives attend its meetings, and is responsible for the overall conduct of the military affairs of the Alliance under the authority of the Council. The Chairman of the NATO Military Committee is Giampaolo Di Paola of Italy, since 2008.

Like the Council, from time to time the Military Committee also meets at a higher level, namely at the level of Chiefs of Defence, the most senior military officer in each nation's armed forces. Until 2008 the Military Committee excluded France, due to that country's 1966 decision to remove itself from NATO's integrated military structure, which it rejoined in 1995. Until France rejoined NATO, it was not represented on the Defence Planning Committee, and this led to conflicts between it and NATO members. Such was the case in the lead up to Operation Iraqi Freedom.[94] The operational work of the Committee is supported by the International Military Staff.

NATO's military operations are directed by the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, and split into two Strategic Commands commanded by a senior US officer[95] and a senior French officer[96] assisted by a staff drawn from across NATO. The Strategic Commanders are responsible to the Military Committee for the overall direction and conduct of all Alliance military matters within their areas of command.

The Military Committee in turn directs two principal NATO organizations: the Allied Command Operations responsible for the strategic, operational and tactical management of combat and combat support forces of the NATO members, and the Allied Command Transformation organization responsible for the induction of the new member states' forces into NATO, and NATO forces' research and training capability.[97]


  1. ^ a b With the accession of Greece and Turkey, this region was extended to an attack on: the Algerian Departments of France (which is not applicable anymore), on the territory of Turkey or on the islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer. The validity was also extended to "vessels, forces or aircraft" of the parties, when north of the Tropic of Cancer. Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the Accession of Greece and Turkey


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  • David C. Isby & Charles Kamps Jr, Armies of NATO's Central Front, Jane's Publishing Company Ltd 1985, ISBN 071060341X

Further reading

Early period
  • Francis A. Beer. Integration and Disintegration in NATO: Processes of Alliance Cohesion and Prospects for Atlantic Community. (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1969), 330 pp.
  • Francis A. Beer. The Political Economy of Alliances: Benefits, Costs, and Institutions in NATO. (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1972), 40 pp.
  • Eisenhower, Dwight D. The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower. Vols. 12 and 13: NATO and the Campaign of 1952 : Louis Galambos et al., ed. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. 1707 pp. in 2 vol.
  • Gearson, John and Schake, Kori, ed. The Berlin Wall Crisis: Perspectives on Cold War Alliances Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. 209 pp.
  • John C. Milloy. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, 1948–1957: Community or Alliance? (2006), focus on non-military issues
  • Smith, Joseph, ed. The Origins of NATO Exeter, UK University of Exeter Press, 1990. 173 pp.
Late Cold War period
  • Heuser, Beatrice. NATO, Britain, France and the FRG: Nuclear Strategies and Forces for Europe, 1949–2000 (London: Macmillan, hardback 1997, paperback 1999), 256p., Index, Map. ISBN 0-333-67365-4 (hbk)
  • Heuser, Beatrice. "NATO: Alliance of Democracies and Nuclear Deterrence", in Sven G. Holtsmark, Vojtech Mastny und Andreas Wenger (ed): War Plans and Alliances in the Cold War: Threat Perceptions in the East and West (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 193–217.
  • Heuser, Beatrice. "Victory in a Nuclear War? A Comparison of NATO and WTO War Aims and Strategies", Contemporary European History Vol. 7 Part 3 (November 1998), pp. 311–328. Beatrice Heuser (12 September 2008). "Cambridge Journals Online – Abstract". doi:10.1017/S0960777300004264. Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
  • Smith, Jean Edward, and Canby, Steven L.The Evolution of NATO with Four Plausible Threat Scenarios. Canada Department of Defence: Ottawa, 1987. 117 pp.
Post Cold War period
  • Asmus, Ronald D. Opening NATO's Door: How the Alliance Remade Itself for a New Era Columbia University Press, 2002. 372 pp.
  • Bacevich, Andrew J. and Cohen, Eliot A. War over Kosovo: Politics and Strategy in a Global Age. Columbia University Press, 2002. 223 pp.
  • Daclon, Corrado Maria Security through Science: Interview with Jean Fournet, Assistant Secretary General of NATO, Analisi Difesa, 2004. no. 42
  • Gheciu, Alexandra. NATO in the 'New Europe' Stanford University Press, 2005. 345 pp.
  • Hendrickson, Ryan C. Diplomacy and War at NATO: The Secretary General and Military Action After the Cold War University of Missouri Press, 2006. 175 pp.
  • Lambeth, Benjamin S. NATO's Air War in Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 2001. 250 pp.
General histories
  • Alasdair, Roberts (2002/2003). "NATO, Secrecy, and the Right to Information". East European Constitutional Review (New York University – School of Law) 11/12 (4/1): 86–94. 
  • Kaplan, Lawrence S. The Long Entanglement: NATO's First Fifty Years. Praeger, 1999. 262 pp.
  • Kaplan, Lawrence S. NATO Divided, NATO United: The Evolution of an Alliance. Praeger, 2004. 165 pp.
  • Létourneau, Paul. Le Canada et l'OTAN après 40 ans, 1949–1989 Quebec: Cen. Québécois de Relations Int., 1992. 217 pp.
  • Paquette, Laure. NATO and Eastern Europe After 2000 (New York: Nova Science, 2001).
  • Powaski, Ronald E. The Entangling Alliance: The United States and European Security, 1950–1993. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994. 261 pp.
  • Telo, António José. Portugal e a NATO: O Reencontro da Tradição Atlântica, Lisbon: Cosmos, 1996. 374 pp.
  • Sandler, Todd and Hartley, Keith. The Political Economy of NATO: Past, Present, and into the 21st century. Cambridge Uiversity Press, 1999. 292 pp.
  • Zorgbibe, Charles. Histoire de l'OTAN Brussels: Complexe, 2002. 283 pp.
Other issues
  • Kaplan, Lawrence S., ed. American Historians and the Atlantic Alliance. Kent State University Press, 1991. 192 pp.

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