North Atlantic Treaty Organization

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established in Washington on 4th April, 1949. The treaty, signed by the Foreign Ministers of Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United States, provided for mutual assistance should any one member of the alliance be attacked. Greece and Turkey joined NATO on 18th February 1952 and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) on 9th May 1955.

NATO was a product of the containment policy developed by George Kennan and implemented by the president of the United States Harry S. Truman (1945-52) and his Secretary of State's, George Marshall (1947-49) and Dean Acheson (1949-52). The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan were also aspects of the same policy that attempted to stop the spread of Soviet Communism.

President Dwight Eisenhower appointed John Foster Dulles as his Secretary of State in 1953. Dulles spent considerable time building up NATO as part of his strategy of controlling Soviet expansion by threatening massive retaliation in event of a war. In an article written for Life Magazine Dulles defined his policy of brinkmanship: "The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art." His critics blamed him for damaging relations with communist states and contributing to the Cold War.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization stamp (1969)
North Atlantic Treaty Organization stamp (1969)

In 1966 President Charles De Gaulle withdrew France from Nato's integrated military structure. Spain joined Nato in 1982 and in 1993 France rejoined the military command. Three former Warsaw Pact countries, Hungary , the Czech Republic , and Poland joined in 1999 (invited 1997). The 1990 reunification of Germany brought in the territory of the former country of East Germany . In May 2000 10 countries of the Baltics and Eastern Europe formed the Vilnius group to cooperate and lobby for NATO membership.

NATO launches its first ever military campaign in Sarajevo in 1995. Four years later Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic became the first members of the former Warsaw Pact to join NATO. In 2004 Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia joined. Albania and Croatia joined in 2009 and North Macedonia in 2020. Montenegro joined in 2017.

Primary Sources

(1) The North Atlantic Treaty (4th April, 1949)

The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments. They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.

They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area.

They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security.

They therefore agree to this North Atlantic Treaty:

Article 1: The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.

Article 2: The Parties will contribute towards the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being. They will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any or all of them.

Article 3: In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.

Article 4: The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any one of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.

Article 5: 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 and 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. Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

Article 6: For the purpose of Article 5 an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America ... on the occupation forces of any Party in Europe, on the islands under the jurisdiction of any Party in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer or on the vessels or aircraft in this area of any of the Parties.

(2) Willy Brandt, A Peace Policy for Europe (1968)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is first and foremost an effective defence alliance. It prevents potential opponents from being tempted to exert political pressure on any one of the allies through military force. But constant effort is required to maintain this defensive strength in the face of constantly advancing technical development. We realise that the commitment in Europe is a great burden on the United States.... I am afraid that the time for any significant lightening of the United States' burden has not yet come.

NATO and a policy of détente are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, the existence of NATO - that is, its political weight and its readiness to defend our territory against all attacks - has shown that a policy of tensions and crises is of no avail. The weakening of NATO would reduce the possibility of a détente and lessen its effectiveness. The military deterrent has ensured the peace of Europe.... Military security and détente do not contradict, but supplement each other. Without the firm support of the alliance we cannot carry on any policy of détente. Similarly the political objective of the alliance will not be realised without an East-West détente.