The North Atlantic Treaty
Organisation (NATO), sometimes called North Atlantic Alliance, is an
international organisation for defence collaboration established in 1949, in
support of the North Atlantic Treaty signed in Washington, D.C., on April 4,
1949. Nowadays NATO headquarters are located in Brussels, Belgium.
Initially there were 12
members in the NATO: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy,
Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States and
it was created as the reaction on the USSR threat to occupy Western Europe.
Firstly, it was intended so that if the USSR and its allies launched an attack
against any of the NATO members, it would be treated as if it was an attack on
all member states. This marked a significant change for the United States,
which had traditionally favoured isolationist policies. Luckily, the feared
invasion of Western Europe never came.
Greece and Turkey joined the
initial 12 members of the organisation in February 1952. Germany joined as West
Germany in 1955.
In 1966 Charles de Gaulle
removes French armed forces from NATO's integrated military command to pursue
its own nuclear defence programme. All non-French NATO troops are forced to
leave France. This precipitates the relocation of the NATO Headquarters from
Paris, France to Brussels, Belgium by October 16, 1967. However, France
remained a member of NATO, notwithstanding it withdrew from the integrated
military command. 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.
Following France Greece also
withdrew its forces from NATO's military command structure from 1974 to 1980 as
a result of Greco-Turkish tensions following the 1974 Cyprus dispute.
In 1978 NATO countries defined
two complementary aims of the Alliance, to maintain security and pursue
detente. In 1982 Spain joins the alliance. On October 3, 1990, with the
reunification of Germany, the former East Germany becomes part of the Federal
Republic of Germany and the alliance. To secure Soviet approval of united
Germany remaining in NATO, it is agreed that there will be no new foreign
military bases in the east, and that nuclear weapons will not be permanently
stationed there. On March 31, 1991 the Warsaw Pact comes to an end. It is
officially dissolved on July 1, 1991. The Soviet Union collapses in December of
the same year.
In 1994 NATO takes its first
military action, shooting down two Bosnian Serb aircraft violating a UN no-fly
zone over central Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO airstrikes the following year
help bring the war in Bosnia to an end, resulting in the Dayton Agreement. In
1997 three former communist countries, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland,
are invited to join NATO. They joined in 1999. The same year NATO sees its
first broad-scale military engagement in the Kosovo War, where it wages an 11
-week bombing campaign against what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,
aimed at preventing the alleged ethnic cleansing of Albanians. It ends on June
11,1999, when Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milosevic agrees to NATO's demands.
During the Prague summit in
2002, seven countries are invited to start talks in order to join the Alliance:
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. The
invited countries joined NATO on March 29, 2004. Further countries expressed
the wish to join the alliance, including Albania, the Republic of Macedonia,
Ukraine and Croatia.
On March 29, 2004 Bulgaria,
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined NATO. NATO Summit 2006 took place in Latvia.