Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 53

NATO - Purpose, History, Cooperation with non-member states

europe attack treaty nuclear

Acronym for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. An organization established by a treaty signed in 1949 by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the UK, and the USA; Greece and Turkey acceded in 1952, West Germany in 1955, and Spain in 1982. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary formally joined in 1999. Its headquarters is in Brussels. NATO was established as a military alliance to defend W Europe against Soviet aggression. The treaty commits the members to treat an armed attack on one of them as an attack on all of them, and for all to assist the country attacked by such actions as are deemed necessary. The alliance forces are based on contributions from the member countries' armed services and operate under a multi-national command. The remit includes the deployment of nuclear, as well as conventional, weapons. Its institutions include a Council, an International Secretariat, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe (SHAPE), and various committees to formulate common policies. In the 1970s and 1980s, NATO policy of a first-strike nuclear attack to fend off a Soviet conventional attack became controversial in W Europe, where many thought it increased the possibility of nuclear war. In 1966 France under de Gaulle withdrew all its forces from NATO command, but it remains a member. After the 1989 changes in E Europe, a NATO summit in London (1990) began the process of redefining NATO's military and political goals, and in 1997 NATO and Russia signed a Founding Act on Mutual Relations, allowing for NATO's eastward expansion. NATO's Partnership for Peace is a political structure which has involved over 20 C and E European states. In 1999, NATO authorized air-strikes in Yugoslavia, in response to Serbian measures against the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo. In 2002 Russia became a strategic partner when the NATO–Russian Council (NRC) was formed to frame policy on terrorism and other shared concerns. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, and the Slovak Republic formally joined in 2004. NATO's first peacekeeping role outside Europe took place in 2003, when it assumed control of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

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