Atlantic Treaty Organization
NATO provides unified military
leadership for the common defense of 26 Western
nations. It was established in 1950 by the North
Atlantic Treaty, Article 5 of which provides that
an armed attack against one or more member
nations in Europe or North America shall be
considered an attack against all members.
NATO has its headquarters in
Brussels, Belgium. The official website is www.nato.int.
Czech Republic (1999)
United Kingdom (1949)
United States (1949)
NATO's highest authority is the
North Atlantic Council, which is composed of
permanent delegates from all members. The Council
is responsible for general policy, budgetary
outlines, and administrative actions, and is
headed by a Secretary General nominated by member
Lord Ismay, 1952-1957
Paul Henri Spaak, 1957-1961
Dirk U. Stikker, 1961-1964
Manlio Brosio, 1964-1971
Joseph Luns, 1971-1984
Lord Carrington, 1984-1988
Manfred Werner, 1988-1994
Willy Claes, 1994-1995
Javier Solana, 1995-1999
Lord Robertson, 1999-2003
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, 2003-2009
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, 2009-2014
Jens Staltenberg, 2014-
Subordinate to the Council is
the Secretariat, which handles all nonmilitary
functions of the alliance.
Also directly responsible to
the Council is the Military Committee, which
establishes the military policy of NATO. The
Council consists of the heads of member nations
or their representatives. All decisions of the
Council must be unanimous in order to be
In 1947, the United States and
Great Britain signed the Dunkirk Treaty, in which
each nation pledged to come to the aid of the
other in case of aggression from the Soviet
Union. That agreement was complemented in 1948,
when Belgium, France, Great Britain, Luxembourg,
and the Netherlands signed the Brussels Treaty,
the goal of which was the collective defense of
the signatory nations. Again the perceived threat
was from the Soviet Union.
As the Soviet Union expanded
its influence in Europe, the need for an even
stronger alliance of Western nations became
clear. That alliance was created by the North
Atlantic Treaty, which was signed by twelve
nations -- Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France,
Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The
Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United
States -- on April 4, 1949, in Washington, D.C.
In September 1950, members of
the alliance formed the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization, in response to the Communist
invasion of South Korea.
General Hans Speidel (right), who had served as a
General in the German Army during World War II,
became a NATO commander in April 1957. His
superior, French General Jean-Étienne Valluy is
at his right.
Lauris Norstad (left), Supreme Allied Commander
in Europe, and U.S. Senator Theodore Green,
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, study a 1958 map of NATO.
aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean salutes
NATO's tenth anniversary.
The permanent NATO
headquarters building at Dauphine Gate near the
Bois de Boulogne in Paris, France, neared
completion in December 1959.
In 1967 NATO
moved its headquarters from Paris, France, to
NATO was little more than a
defensive alliance until 1997, when 30,000
NATO-led troops replaced a United Nations
peacekeeping force in Bosnia, the first time
NATO's military capabilities would be tested.
In March 1999, NATO went on the
offensive, launching an aerial assault on
Yugoslavia in order to weaken the regime of
President Slobodan Milosevic and stop his
campaign of genocide against Kosovo's Albanian
Another NATO-led peacekeeping
force was sent into the Balkans in the summer of
2001 to enforce a peace agreement between groups
representing ethnic Albanians and Slavs in
Macedonia. NATO troops were replaced by European
Union troops in 2003.
The Article 5 provision of the
NATO treaty was invoked for the first time in
history in response to the September 11, 2001,
attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon --
several NATO members sent troops to fight
alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which the
United States believed was harboring the
terrorists who had masterminded the attacks.
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