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The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), sometimes called North Atlantic Alliance, Atlantic Alliance or the Western Alliance, is an international organisation for defence collaboration established in 1949, in support of the North Atlantic Treaty signed in Washington, DC, on April 4, 1949. Its other official name is the French equivalent, l'Organisation du TraitÚ de l'Atlantique Nord (OTAN).
The core provision of the treaty is Article V, which states:
- The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all. Consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
This provision was intended so that if a Warsaw Pact member launched an attack against the European allies of the United States, it would be treated as if it was an attack on all member states (including the United States itself), which has the largest military in the alliance and could thus provide the most significant retaliation. However, the feared invasion of Western Europe never came. Instead, the provision was invoked for the first time in the treaty's history on September 12, 2001, in response to the September 11 attacks on the United States the day before.
Founding members (1949)
States that joined NATO during the Cold War
Former Eastern Bloc states that joined NATO after the Cold War
Greece and Turkey joined the organisation in February 1952. Germany joined as West Germany in 1955 and German reunification in 1990 extended the membership to the areas of the former German Democratic Republic, which was annexed to the Federal Republic of Germany. Spain was admitted on May 30, 1982, and the former Warsaw Pact countries of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic made history by becoming members on March 12, 1999.
France is a member of NATO, which retired from the military command in 1966 but rejoined in 1992. Iceland, the sole member of NATO which does not have its own military force (the Icelandic Defence Force being the United States Military contingent permanently stationed in Iceland), joined on the condition that they would not be expected to establish one.
Slovenia, Slovakia, the former Warsaw Pact countries of Bulgaria and Romania, and the former republics of the USSR Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, officially acceded to NATO on March 29, 2004. They attended their first NATO meeting in April 2004.
- March 17, 1948: Benelux, France, and the United Kingdom signed the Treaty of Brussels which is a precursor to the NATO Agreement.
- May 14, 1955: Warsaw Pact treaty signed in Warsaw by the Soviet Union and its satellite states in order to counterbalance NATO. Both organisations were opposing sides in the Cold War. After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, the Warsaw Pact disintegrated.
- 1966: Charles de Gaulle decides to remove France from NATO's military command to pursue its own nuclear defence programme. This precipitates the relocation of the NATO Headquarters from Paris, France to Brussels, Belgium by October 16, 1967. While the political headquarters are located in Brussels the military headquarters, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), are located just south of Brussels, in the town of Mons.
- July 8, 1997: Three former communist countries, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland are invited to joined NATO. They join in 1999.
- March 24, 1999: NATO saw its first military engagement in the Kosovo War, where it waged an 11-week bombing campaign against Serbia and Montenegro ending on June 11, 1999.
- September 12, 2001: NATO invoked, for the first time in its history, the collective security clause of its charter. Article 5 states that any attack on a member state is considered an attack against the entire alliance. This came in response to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack against the United States.
- November 21, 2002: During the Prague (Czech Republic) summit seven countries are invited to start talks in order to join the Alliance: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania. The invited countries joined NATO on March 29 2004. Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will probably be told they have not met the economic, political and military reform criteria and will have to wait. Croatia applied only in 2002 and has just started the process. The summit also launched the NATO Response Force (NRF ).
- February 10, 2003: NATO faced a crisis when 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.
- April 16, 2003: NATO agreed to take command in August 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. All 19 NATO ambassadors approved it unanimously. The handover of control to NATO took place on August 11, 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.
- June 19, 2003: A major restructuring of the NATO military commands began as the Headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic was abolished and a new command, Allied Command Transformation was established in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Secretaries General of NATO
- Lord Ismay (United Kingdom): April 4, 1952, to May 16, 1957
- Paul-Henri Spaak (Belgium): May 16, 1957, to April 21, 1961
- Dirk Stikker (Netherlands): April 21, 1961, to August 1, 1964
- Manlio Brosio (Italy): August 1, 1964, to October 1, 1971
- Joseph Luns (Netherlands): October 1, 1971, to June 25, 1984
- Lord Carrington (United Kingdom): June 25, 1984, to July 1, 1988
- Manfred W÷rner (Germany): July 1, 1988, to August 13, 1994
- Sergio Balanzino (Italy, acting): August 13, 1994, to October 17, 1994
- Willy Claes (Belgium): October 17, 1994, to October 20, 1995
- Sergio Balanzino (Italy, acting): October 20, 1995, to December 5, 1995
- Javier Solana (Spain): December 5, 1995, to October 6, 1999
- Lord Robertson of Port Ellen (United Kingdom): October 14, 1999, to January 1, 2004
- Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (Netherlands): January 1, 2004, to present
Debate on the future of NATO
The crumbling of the main "Enemy of the West" in Eastern Europe, as well as dissentions between members about the latest Iraq operations, makes some wonder – in North America as well as in Europe – if NATO has not become obsolete. The presumed terrorist threat could give this institution a new life, but some think also that fighting this new enemy needs a completely different political and military organisation, as well as completely different weapons systems other than those on which NATO was built.
Many also argue that NATO is in conflict with the prospects of deeper European integration in the fields of foreign policy and security within the framework of the EU institutions. Advocates for a strong EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) would like to see NATO dismantled and create common defence and foreign policy within the existing EU institutions.
In November 2004 after the re-election of President George W. Bush the Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik publicly discussed whether Norway would gain by strengthening her defence relations with the EU. Many Norwegian political analysts consider NATO to be a "politically dead organisation". So do several pundits and political leaders in other member nations. These attitudes will of necessity be reflected in future discussions of NATO expansion.
- Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council
- Partnership for Peace
- Atlantic Council
- Headquarters Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps
- Warsaw pact
- Non-Aligned Movement
- NATO Medal
- NATO Official Website
- NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) Official Website
- NATO Response Force Article
- Official Article on NATO Response Force
- Basic NATO Documents
- Nato searches for defining role
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