NATO's headquarters in Brussels.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): Structure and Objectives
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization or Atlantic Alliance (NATO) is an international political and military organization with the aim of guaranteeing the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.

As stated in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty of 4 April 1949, creating the Alliance, "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 (…)”. This is the principle of collective defence, which has only been invoked once in the history of the Organization; in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States.

NATO is currently comprised of 29 Member States and Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg is the Secretary General; in December 2017 his mandate was extended to September 2020. The maximum decision-making body of the Atlantic Alliance is the North Atlantic Council, comprised of the Representative Ambassadors of the Allied countries. The basic structure is completed by the Military Committee (comprised of the Defence Chiefs of Staff of the Allied countries), to which the Allied Command Operation and Allied Transformation Command report. The organizational structure is completed by the International Staff and the International Military Staff. Decisions are taken by consensus. As an organization, NATO has very few permanent own forces. When the Atlantic Alliance decides to launch an operation, the Member States provide military forces voluntarily.

NATO was founded by twelve countries, signatories of the Washington Treaty: the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Holland, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, the United Kingdom and Portugal. Subsequently, Greece and Turkey joined in 1952, the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955; Spain, in 1982; Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic in 1999, these being the first former Communist countries to join NATO. Soon after that, at the Prague Summit in 2002, dubbed the "transformation summit," NATO invited seven countries (Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) to join and all seven joined the Alliance in March 2004. In 2009 it was the turn of Albania and Croatia, while the last State to join the Alliance was Montenegro, in 2017. NATO maintains an open-door policy to “any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic" (Article 10 of the Washington Treaty).

Throughout the last 25 years, NATO has developed association agreements with some 40 countries, which collaborated with the Alliance across a broad spectrum of activities related to security and defence. With these partner countries, NATO maintains political dialogue and practical cooperation and many of them contribute to NATO operations. These partners are from the Euro-Atlantic area, the Mediterranean, countries in the Persian Gulf Region and other partners across the globe. Similarly NATO cooperates with other international bodies (such as the European Union, the OSCE and the UN).

At the Lisbon Summit in 2010 the Strategic Concept was approved which identified collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security as the three essential tasks or basic pillars that NATO must develop to ensure the security of its members. In this context, NATO contributes to peace and security on the international stage, promoting democratic values and committing to the peaceful resolution of conflicts. However, where diplomatic efforts fail, NATO has the military capacity to launch a crisis management operation alone or in cooperation with other countries of international organisations. Currently, NATO maintains operations in Afghanistan (Resolute Support Mission), in Kosovo (KFOR) and in the Mediterranean (Sea Guardian). In addition to the above, NATO supports the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Baltic Air-Policing Mission, strengthened after Russia's illegal intervention in Ukraine in 2014 to ensure the air space of the more exposed Allies.

 

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