The North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO also called the (North) Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmentalmilitary alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on 4 April 1949. 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. NATO's headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium, one of the 28 member states across North America and Europe, the newest of which, Albania and Croatia, joined in April 2009. An additional 22 countries participate in NATO's Partnership for Peace, with 15 other countries involved in institutionalized dialogue programs. The combined military spending of all NATO members constitutes over 70% of the world's defence spending. 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 course of the Cold War led to a rivalry with nations of the Warsaw Pact, which formed in 1955. The first NATO Secretary General, Lord Ismay, stated in 1949 that the organization's goal was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down". 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, and conducted their first military interventions in Bosnia from 1991 to 1995 and later Yugoslavia in 1999. Politically, the organization sought better relations with former Cold War rivals, which culminated with several former Warsaw Pact states joining the alliance in 1999 and 2004. The September 2001 attackssignalled the only occasion in NATO's history that Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty has been invoked as an attack on all NATO members. After the attack, troops were deployed to Afghanistan under the NATO-led ISAF, and the organization continues to operate in a range of roles, including sending trainers to Iraq, assisting in counter-piracy operationsand most recently in 2011 enforcing a no-fly zoneover Libya in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1973. Cold war
The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 was crucial for NATO as it raised the apparent threat of all Communist countries working together, and forced the alliance to develop concrete military plans. SHAPE, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, was formed as a consolidated command structure, and began work under Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower in January 1951. 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. Also at Lisbon, the post of Secretary General of NATO as the organization's chief civilian was created, and Baron Hastings Ismay eventually appointed to the post. In September 1952, the first major NATO maritime exercises began; Exercise Mainbrace brought together 200 ships and over 50,000 personnel to practice the defence of Denmark and Norway. Other major exercises that followed included Exercise Grand Slam and Exercise Longstep, naval and amphibious exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, 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...
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