The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established in 1949 with the signing of the Washington Treaty, under which twelve countries of both sides of the Atlantic pledged to mutually defend each other in the event of an armed attack against any one of them. NATO currently comprises 30 members, in addition to 21 cooperation partners in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), seven Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) partners, four countries that participate in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) and nine "partners across the globe." Spain became NATO's 16th member on 30 May 1982. Jens Stoltenberg, a Norwegian, is the Secretary General of the Organization.
NATO is an international organization whose purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. As stated in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, “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 principle of collective defence has only been invoked once in the history of the Organization, in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States in 2001.
His Majesty the King and the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Jens Stoltenberg, at the new NATO General Headquarters in Brussels (2018). Photo: Royal Household
NATO currently has thirty members: the twelve founding countries (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States), Greece and Turkey (which joined in 1952), the Federal Republic of Germany (1955), Spain (1982), the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland (1999), Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia (2004), Albania and Croatia (2009), Montenegro (2017) and North Macedonia (2020). In accordance with Article 10 of the Washington Treaty, "any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area" may accede to this organization.
Spain joined the integrated military structure in 1999, and remains a trustworthy and reliable member, committed to the Atlantic Alliance and to the values it represents.
In Spain, the Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón (CAOC-TJ) controls NATO airspace in the southern half of Europe.
Spain contributes a whole range of military capabilities to the Alliance, including the Command and Control entities, the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps - Spain Headquarters (NRDC-ESP) in Bétera (Valencia), the High Readiness Forces (Maritime) Headquarters (HRF-M) in Rota (Cádiz) and the capability at Torrejón Air Base to generate an air force headquarters of a similar nature (JFAC).
Also based in Spain are the Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence (C-IED CoE) located in Hoyo de Manzanares (Madrid), and the Tactical Leadership Programme (TLP) for Allied fighter aircraft crew members, based in Albacete. Spain also makes a notable contribution to NATO's Ballistic Missile Defence System, with four US Aegis destroyers based at Naval Station Rota.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, visits the Spanish contingent deployed at Adazi Military Base in Estonia. December 2021 . Photo: NOLSOM-MAUC
In the framework of NATO, Spain has forces deployed in Latvia (Spain contributes high capability combat vehicles to the Canadian-led multinational battle group, in the framework of the Enhanced Forward Presence initiative), and in Turkey (with the deployment of a Patriot air defence battery to defend Turkey against any possible attack coming from Syria), and contributes consistently to NATO Standing Naval Forces, to the Baltic Air Policing mission with deployments in Lithuania/Estonia and to the Enhanced Air Policy Mission in Romania since 2021.
Spain participates in the NATO mission in Iraq (NM-I), which carries out training activities for the Iraqi Armed Forces. In the Mediterranean, it participates in Operation Sea Guardian, which offers sea-based support in combating terrorism, knowledge of the Mediterranean environment and regional capacity building for maritime security.
Spain in international security and defence organisations
Representation of Spain to NATO