- 3Military Operations:
- 3.1Early Operations:
- 3.2Bosnia and Herzegovina Intervention:
- 3.1Kosovo Intervention:
- 3.2War in Afghanistan:
- 3.1Iraq Training Mission:
- 3.2Gulf of Aden Anti-Piracy:
- 3.1Libya Intervention:
- 4Participating Countries:
- 7The Flag:
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 29 North American and European countries. The organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed on 4 April 1949. NATO constitutes a system of collective defense whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party. NATO’s Headquarters are located in Haren, Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium.
Since its founding, the admission of new member states has increased the alliance from the original 12 countries to 29. The most recent member state to be added to NATO is Montenegro on 5 June 2017. NATO currently recognizes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, North Macedonia and Ukraine as aspiring members. An additional 21 countries participate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, with 15 other countries involved in institutionalized dialogue programs. The combined military spending of all NATO members constitutes over 70% of the global total. Members have committed to reach or maintain defense spending of at least 2% of GDP by 2024.
On 4 March 1947 the Treaty of Dunkirk was signed by France and the United Kingdom as a Treaty of Alliance and Mutual Assistance in the event of a possible attack by Germany or the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II. In 1948, this alliance was expanded to include the Benelux countries, in the form of the Western Union, also referred to as the Brussels Treaty Organization (BTO), established by the Treaty of Brussels. Talks for a new military alliance which could also include North America resulted in the signature of the North Atlantic Treaty on 4 April 1949 by the member states of the Western Union plus the United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.
The North Atlantic Treaty was largely dormant until the Korean War initiated the establishment of NATO to implement it, by means of an integrated military structure: This included the formation of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in 1951, which adopted the Western Union’s military structures and plans. In 1952 the post of Secretary General of NATO was established as the organization’s chief civilian, the first major NATO maritime exercises began; Exercise Mainbrace, and Greece and Turkey acceded. In 1955 West Germany was also incorporated into NATO, which resulted in the creation of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact, delineating the two opposing sides of the Cold War.
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 defense against a prospective Soviet invasion – doubts that led to the development of the independent French nuclear deterrent and the withdrawal of France from NATO’s military structure in 1966. In 1982 the newly democratic Spain joined the alliance.
The collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1989–1991 removed the de-facto main adversary of NATO and caused a strategic re-evaluation of NATO’s purpose, nature, tasks, and focus on the continent of Europe. This shift started with the 1990 signing in Paris of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe between NATO and the Soviet Union, which mandated specific military reductions across the continent that continued after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. At that time, European countries accounted for 34 percent of NATO’s military spending; by 2012, this had fallen to 21 percent. NATO also began a gradual expansion to include newly autonomous Central and Eastern European nations, and extended its activities into political and humanitarian situations that had not formerly been NATO concerns.