The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, is an international organization for defense 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 language equivalent, L'Organisation du Traité de l'Atlantique Nord, or 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 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.
This provision was intended so that if the Soviet Union launched an attack against the European allies of the United States, it would be treated as if it was an attack on the United States itself, which had the biggest military and could thus provide the most significant retaliation. Since a Soviet invasion of western Europe never occured, article five was never invoked until September 12, 2001 in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
- Belgium (1949)
- Bulgaria (2004)
- Canada (1949)
- Czech Republic (1999)
- Denmark (1949)
- Estonia (2004)
- France (1949)
- Germany (1955)
- Greece (1952)
- Hungary (1999)
- Iceland (1949)
- Italy (1949)
- Latvia (2004)
- Lithuania (2004)
- Luxembourg (1949)
- Netherlands (1949)
- Norway (1949)
- Poland (1999)
- Portugal (1949)
- Romania (2004)
- Slovakia (2004)
- Slovenia (2004)
- Spain (1982)
- Turkey (1952)
- United Kingdom (1949)
- United States (1949)
Greece and Turkey joined the organization in February 1952. Germany joined as West Germany in 1955 and German unification in 1990 extended the membership to the areas of former East 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 still a member of NATO but retired from the military command in 1966. Iceland, the sole member of NATO which does not have its own military force, joined on the condition that they would not be expected to establish one. Slovenia and the former Warsaw Pact countries of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia 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.
- April 4, 1949: North Atlantic Treaty signed in Washington, DC.
- 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 program. 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.
- March 31, 1991: The Warsaw Pact comes to an end. It is officially dissolved on July 1.
- 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 attacks.
- 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 join 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.
- 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. It was approved unanimously by all 19 NATO ambassadors. 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, US.
- March 29, 2004: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia join NATO.
- Hastings Lionel Ismay, 1st Baron Ismay (United Kingdom): 4 April 1952 - 16 May 1957
- Paul-Henri Spaak (Belgium): 16 May 1957 - 21 April 1961
- Dirk Stikker (Netherlands): 21 April 1961 - 1 August 1964
- Manlio Brosio (Italy): 1 August 1964 - 1 October 1971
- Joseph Luns (Netherlands): 1 October 1971 - 25 June 1984
- Peter Carington, 6th Baron Carrington (United Kingdom): 25 June 1984 - 1 July 1988
- Manfred Wörner (Germany): 1 July 1988- 13 August 1994
- Sergio Balanzino (Italy, acting): 13 August - 17 October 1994
- Willy Claes (Belgium): 17 October 1994 - 20 October 1995
- Sergio Balanzino (Italy, acting): 20 October - 5 December 1995
- Javier Solana (Spain): 5 December 1995 - 6 October 1999
- George Robertson (United Kingdom): 14 October 1999 - 1 January 2004
- Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (Netherlands): 1 January 2004 - present.
Supreme Allied Commanders Europe (SACEUR)
- Dwight D. Eisenhower: 2 April, 1951 - 30 May, 1952
- Matthew Ridgway: 30 May, 1952 - 11 July, 1953
- Alfred Gruenther: 1 July, 1953 - 20 November, 1956
- Lauris Norstad: 20 November, 1956 - 1 January, 1963
- Lyman Lemnitzer: 1 January, 1963 - 1 July, 1969
- Andrew Goodpaster: 1 July, 1969 - 15 December, 1974
- Alexander Haig: 15 December, 1974 - 1 July, 1979
- Bernard Rogers: 1 July, 1979 - 26 June, 1987
- John Galvin: 26 June, 1987 - 23 June, 1992
- John Shalikashvili: 23 June, 1992 - 22 October, 1993
- George Joulwan: 22 October, 1993 - 11 July, 1997
- Wesley Clark: 11 July, 1997 - 3 May, 2000
- Joseph Ralston: 3 May, 2000 - 17 January, 2003
- James L. Jones: 17 January, 2003 - present
Note: starting with Ridgway all SACEUR have been simultaneously Commander in Chief, US European Command (CINCEUR)
- Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council
- Partnership for Peace
- Atlantic Council
- Headquarters Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps