Thangai Veera Si. Annan
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO, also called the (North) Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on 4 April 1949. NATO headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium, and 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. The alliance includes 28 members in North America and Europe, with the most recent being Albania and Croatia who 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 lead to a rivalry with nations of the Warsaw Pact, 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 attacks signalled 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 operations and most recently in 2011 enforced a no-fly zone over Libya in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
Origins of the NATO
The Treaty of Brussels, signed on 17 March 1948 by Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and the United Kingdom, is considered the precursor to the NATO agreement. The treaty and the Soviet Berlin Blockade led to the creation of the Western European Union’s Defence Organization in September 1948. However, participation of the United States was thought necessary to counter the military power of the USSR, and talks for a new military alliance began almost immediately resulting in the North Atlantic Treaty, which was signed in Washington, D.C. on 4 April 1949. It included the five Treaty of Brussels states plus the United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Popular support for the Treaty was not unanimous, and some Icelanders commenced a pro-neutrality, anti-membership riot in March 1949.
The members agreed that an armed attack against any one of them in Europe or North America would be considered an attack against them all. Consequently they agreed that, if an armed attack occurred, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence, would assist the member being attacked, taking such action as it deemed necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area. The treaty does not require members to respond militarily action against aggressor. Although obliged to respond, they maintain the freedom to choose the method. This differs from Article IV of the Treaty of Brussels, which clearly states that the response will be military in nature. It is nonetheless assumed that NATO members will aid the attacked member militarily. The treaty was later clarified to include both the member’s territory and their “vessels, forces or aircraft” above the Tropic of Cancer, including some Overseas departments of France.
The creation of NATO brought about some standardization of allied military terminology, procedures, and technology, which in many cases meant European countries adopting U.S. practices. The roughly 1300 Standardization Agreements codified many of the common practices that NATO has achieved. Hence, the 7.62×51 NATO rifle cartridge was introduced in the 1950s as a standard firearm cartridge among many NATO countries. Fabrique Nationale de Herstal’s FAL became the most popular 7.62 NATO rifle in Europe and served into the early 1990s.Also, aircraft marshalling signals were standardized, so that any NATO aircraft could land at any NATO base. Other standards such as the NATO phonetic alphabet have made their way beyond NATO into civilian use.
The outbreak of the Korean War in 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. 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.
The German Bundeswehr provided the largest element of the allied land forces guarding the frontier in Central Europe; 12 of 26 divisions in 1985.
In September 1952, the first major NATO maritime exercises began; Operation Mainbrace brought together 200 ships and over 50,000 personnel to practice the defence of Denmark and Norway. Other major exercises that followed included Operation Grand Slam, NATO’s first naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, ‘Mariner,’ which involved convoy protection, naval control of shipping, and striking fleet operations in the North Atlantic, 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 Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE), Monte Carlo a simulated atomic air-ground exercise involving the Central Army Group, and Weldfast, a combined amphibious landing exercise in the Mediterranean Sea involving British, Greek, Italian, Turkish, and U.S. naval forces.
Greece and Turkey also joined the alliance in 1952, forcing a series of controversial negotiations, in which the United States and Britain were the primary disputants, over how to bring the two countries into the military command structure. While this overt military preparation was going on, covert stay-behind arrangements initially made by the Western European Union to continue resistance after a successful Soviet invasion, including Operation Gladio, were transferred to NATO control. Ultimately unofficial bonds began to grow between NATO’s armed forces, such as the NATO Tiger Association and competitions such as the Canadian Army Trophy for tank gunnery.
In 1954, the Soviet Union suggested that it should join NATO to preserve peace in Europe. The NATO countries, fearing that the Soviet Union’s motive was to weaken the alliance, ultimately rejected this proposal. The incorporation of West Germany into the organization on 9 May 1955 was described as “a decisive turning point in the history of our continent” by Halvard Lange, Foreign Affairs Minister of Norway at the time. A major reason for Germany’s entry into the alliance was that without German manpower, it would have been impossible to field enough conventional forces to resist a Soviet invasion. One of its immediate results was the creation of the Warsaw Pact, which was signed on 14 May 1955 by the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and East Germany, as a formal response to this event, thereby delineating the two opposing sides of the Cold War.
Three major exercises were held concurrently in the northern autumn of 1957. Operation Counter Punch, Operation Strike back, and Operation Deep Water were the most ambitious military undertaking for the alliance to date, involving more than 250,000 men, 300 ships, and 1,500 aircraft operating from Norway to Turkey.
After the Cold War
The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 removed the de facto main adversary of NATO. This caused a strategic re-evaluation of NATO’s purpose, nature and tasks. In practice this ended up entailing a gradual expansion of NATO to Eastern Europe, as well as the extension of its activities to areas that had not formerly been NATO concerns.
Reforms made under Mikhail Gorbachev led to the end of the Warsaw Pact.
The first post–Cold War expansion of NATO came with German reunification on 3 October 1990, when the former East Germany became part of the Federal Republic of Germany and the alliance. This had been agreed in the Two Plus Four Treaty earlier in the year. To secure Soviet approval of a united Germany remaining in NATO, it was agreed that foreign troops and nuclear weapons would not be stationed in the east. The scholar Stephen F. Cohen argued in 2005 that a commitment was given that NATO would never expand further east, but according to Robert Zoellick, then a State Department official involved in the Two Plus Four negotiating process, this appears to be a misperception; no formal commitment of the sort was made. In May 2008, Gorbachev repeated his view that such a commitment had been made, and that “the Americans promised that NATO wouldn’t move beyond the boundaries of Germany after the Cold War”.
As part of post–Cold War restructuring, NATO’s military structure was cut back and reorganized, with new forces such as the Headquarters Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps established. The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe agreed between NATO and the Warsaw Pact and signed in Paris in 1990, mandated specific reductions. The changes brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union on the military balance in Europe were recognized in the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which was signed in 1999. The policies of French President Nicolas Sarkozy have resulted in a major reform of France’s military position, culminating with the return to full membership on 4 April 2009, which also included France rejoining the integrated military command of NATO, while maintaining an independent nuclear deterrent.
NATO has added 12 new members since German Reunification and the end of the Cold War.
New NATO structures were also formed while old ones were abolished: The NATO Response Force (NRF) was launched at the 2002 Prague summit on 21 November, the first summit in a former Comecon country. On 19 June 2003, a major restructuring of the NATO military commands began as the Headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic were abolished and a new command, Allied Command Transformation (ACT), was established in Norfolk, Virginia, United States, and the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) became the Headquarters of Allied Command Operations (ACO). ACT is responsible for driving transformation (future capabilities) in NATO, whilst ACO is responsible for current operations.
Membership went on expanding with the accession of seven more Northern and Eastern European countries to NATO: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. They were first invited to start talks of membership during the 2002 Prague Summit, and joined NATO on 29 March 2004, shortly before the 2004 Istanbul summit. The same month, NATO’s Baltic Air Policing began, which supported the sovereignty of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia by providing fighters to react to any unwanted aerial intrusions. Four fighters are based in Lithuania, provided in rotation by virtually all the NATO states. Operation Peaceful Summit temporarily enhanced this patrolling during the 2006 Riga summit.
The 2006 Riga summit was held in Riga, Latvia, which had joined the Atlantic Alliance two years earlier. It is the first NATO summit to be held in a country that was part of the Soviet Union. Energy Security was one of the main themes of the Riga Summit. At the April 2008 summit in Bucharest, Romania, NATO agreed to the accession of Croatia and Albania and invited them to join. Both countries joined NATO in April 2009. Ukraine and Georgia were also told that they will eventually become members.
Like any alliance, NATO is ultimately governed by its 28 member states. However, the North Atlantic Treaty, and other agreements, outline how decisions are to be made within NATO. Each of the 28 members sends a delegation or mission to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The senior permanent member of each delegation is known as the Permanent Representative and is generally a senior civil servant or an experienced ambassador (and holding that diplomatic rank). Several countries have diplomatic missions to NATO through embassies in Belgium.
Together, the Permanent Members form the North Atlantic Council (NAC), a body which meets together at least once a week and has effective governance authority and powers of decision in NATO. From time to time the Council also meets at higher level meetings involving foreign ministers, defence ministers or heads of state or government (HOSG) and it is at these meetings that major decisions regarding NATO’s policies are generally taken. However, it is worth noting that the Council has the same authority and powers of decision-making, and its decisions have the same status and validity, at whatever level it meets. NATO summits also form a further venue for decisions on complex issues, such as enlargement.
The meetings of the North Atlantic Council are chaired by the Secretary General of NATO and, when decisions have to be made, action is agreed upon on the basis of unanimity and common accord. There is no voting or decision by majority. Each nation represented at the Council table or on any of its subordinate committees retains complete sovereignty and responsibility for its own decisions.
|List of Secretaries General
||General Lord Ismay
||4 April 1952 – 16 May 1957
||16 May 1957 – 21 April 1961
||21 April 1961 – 1 August 1964
||1 August 1964 – 1 October 1971
||1 October 1971 – 25 June 1984
||25 June 1984 – 1 July 1988
||1 July 1988 – 13 August 1994
||Sergio Balanzino (acting)
||13 August 1994 – 17 October 1994
||17 October 1994 – 20 October 1995
||Sergio Balanzino (acting)
||20 October 1995 – 5 December 1995
||5 December 1995 – 6 October 1999
||14 October 1999 – 17 December 2003
||Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo (acting)
||17 December 2003 – 1 January 2004
||Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
||1 January 2004 – 1 August 2009
||Anders Fogh Rasmussen
||1 August 2009–present
NATO Parliamentary Assembly
NATO Ministers of Defense and of Foreign Affairs meet at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The body that sets broad strategic goals for NATO is the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO-PA) which meets at the Annual Session, and one other during the year, and is the organ that directly interacts with the parliamentary structures of the national governments of the member states which appoint Permanent Members, or ambassadors to NATO. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is made up of legislators from the member countries of the North Atlantic Alliance as well as thirteen associate members. Karl A. Lamers, German Deputy Chairman of the Defence Committee of the Bundestag and a member of the Christian Democratic Union, became president of the assembly in 2010. It is however officially a different structure from NATO, and has as aim to join together deputies of NATO countries in order to discuss security policies on the NATO Council.
The Assembly is the political integration body of NATO that generates political policy agenda setting for the NATO Council via reports of its five committees:
Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security
Defence and Security Committee
Economics and Security Committee
Science and Technology Committee
These reports provide impetus and direction as agreed upon by the national governments of the member states through their own national political processes and influencers to the NATO administrative and executive organizational entities.
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