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Old Thursday, December 01, 2005
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Default North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

INTRODUCTION

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), regional defense alliance created by the North Atlantic Treaty. NATO’s purpose is to enhance the stability, well-being, and freedom of its members through a system of collective security. Members of the alliance agree to defend one another from attack by other nations or by terrorist groups. NATO has its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed on April 4, 1949, at the beginning of the Cold War. The original purpose of NATO was to defend Western Europe against possible attack by Communist nations, led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The original signatories (signers of treaty) were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Greece and Turkey were admitted to the alliance in 1952, West Germany in 1955, and Spain in 1982. In 1990 the newly unified Germany replaced West Germany as a NATO member.

After the formal end of the Cold War in 1991, NATO reached out to former members of the Warsaw Pact, the Communist military alliance created in 1955 by the USSR to counter NATO. In 1999 former Warsaw Pact members Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic became members of NATO, bringing the total membership to 19 nations. In 2002 Russia, once the USSR’s largest republic, became a limited partner in NATO as a member of the NATO-Russia Council. The same year NATO invited the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, formerly part of the USSR, to join, along with Slovenia, formerly part of Communist Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia, once part of Czechoslovakia. These countries were formally admitted to NATO in April 2004. Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania were all former Warsaw Pact members.

Over the years the existence of NATO has led to closer ties among its members and to a growing community of interests. The treaty itself has provided a model for other collective security agreements. NATO activities are no longer confined only to Europe. In 2003, for the first time in its history, NATO took up peacekeeping activities outside of Europe by deploying troops in Afghanistan.

BACKGROUND

In the years after World War II (1939-1945), many Western leaders believed the policies of the USSR threatened international stability and peace. The forcible installation of Communist governments throughout Eastern Europe, territorial demands by the Soviets, and their support of guerrilla war in Greece and regional separatism in Iran appeared to many as the first steps of World War III. Such events prompted the signing of the Dunkirk Treaty in 1947 between Britain and France, which pledged a common defense against aggression. Subsequent events, including the rejection by Eastern European nations of the European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan) and the creation of Cominform, a European Communist organization, in 1947, led to the Brussels Treaty signed by most Western European countries in 1948. Among the goals of that pact was the collective defense of its members. The Berlin blockade that began in March 1948 led to negotiations between Western Europe, Canada, and the United States that resulted in the North Atlantic Treaty.

TREATY PROVISIONS

The North Atlantic Treaty consists of a preamble and 14 articles. The preamble states the purpose of the treaty: to promote the common values of its members and to “unite their efforts for collective defense.” Article 1 calls for peaceful resolution of disputes. Article 2 pledges the parties to economic and political cooperation. Article 3 calls for development of the capacity for defense. Article 4 provides for joint consultations when a member is threatened. Article 5 promises the use of the members’ armed forces for “collective self-defense.” Article 6 defines the areas covered by the treaty. Article 7 affirms the precedence of members’ obligations under the United Nations Charter. Article 8 safeguards against conflict with any other treaties of the signatories. Article 9 creates a council to oversee implementation of the treaty. Article 10 describes admission procedures for other nations. Article 11 states the ratification procedure. Article 12 allows for reconsideration of the treaty. Article 13 outlines withdrawal procedures. Article 14 calls for the deposition of the official copies of the treaty in the U.S. Archives.

STRUCTURE

The highest authority within NATO is the North Atlantic Council, composed of permanent delegates from all members, headed by a secretary general. It is responsible for general policy, budgetary outlines, and administrative actions, and is the decision-making body of NATO. The Secretariat, various temporary committees, and the Military Committee are among the committees that report to the North Atlantic Council. The secretary general runs the Secretariat, which handles all the nonmilitary functions of the alliance. The temporary committees deal with specific assignments of the council. The Military Committee consists of the chiefs of staff of the various armed forces; it meets twice a year. Between such meetings the Military Committee, in permanent session with representatives of the members, defines military policies. Below the Military Committee are the various geographical commands: Allied Command Europe, Allied Command Atlantic, and the Canada-U.S. Regional Planning Group. These commands are in charge of deploying armed forces in their areas.

HISTORY

A Early Years

Until 1950 NATO consisted primarily of a pledge by the United States to defend other members of the alliance under the terms of Article 5 of the treaty. However, there was no effective military or administrative structure to implement this pledge. The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 convinced the allies that the Soviets might act against a divided Germany. The result was not only the creation of a military command system, but also the expansion of the organization. In 1952 Greece and Turkey joined the alliance, and in 1955 West Germany was accepted under a complicated arrangement whereby Germany would not be allowed to manufacture nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. In its first decade NATO was mainly a military organization dependent on U.S. power for security and for the revival of Europe’s economy and national governments.

B The Cold War Era

NATO’s importance grew with the worsening of relations between the Soviet Union and Western powers. As the Soviet Union achieved parity in nuclear weaponry with Western powers, some European nations feared that the United States would not honor its pledge to defend other members of the alliance. The 1960s were characterized by two consequent developments in NATO: the withdrawal of France, under President Charles de Gaulle, from the organization but not from the alliance in 1966; and the rising influence of the smaller nations, which sought to use NATO as an instrument of détente as well as defense.

The crisis in Czechoslovakia in 1968 was a turning point for NATO; thereafter it was viewed as a source of security for Europe. America’s involvement in the Vietnam War (1957-1975) further diminished U.S. authority and contributed to dissatisfaction within NATO. Although the 1970s began with some agreements as a result of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I), the decade ended in disillusionment as the Soviets rapidly built up their military arsenal. NATO resolved this problem with the dual-track program of 1979, in which new defense efforts were accompanied by new efforts at détente. The 1980s opened with a deepening crisis between the East and West. In 1983 the USSR failed to prevent the deployment of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, designed to cope with Soviet weapons targeted on European cities. The signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in 1987 presaged the breakdown of the Warsaw Pact (see Arms Control). The decade ended with the apparent success of NATO in surmounting the challenge of the Communist bloc.

C End of the Cold War

In the late 1980s Communist governments began to crumble throughout Eastern Europe. West Germany absorbed East Germany to form the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990, and the Warsaw Pact dissolved in early 1991. The Soviet Union broke apart later that year, drastically reducing the military threat to NATO. Nevertheless, many Western observers saw NATO in the post-Cold War era as an umbrella of security in a Europe buffeted by the nationalist passions unleashed in Eastern Europe and the former USSR.

Following the dissolution of the USSR, NATO sought to strengthen relations with the newly independent nations that had formerly made up the USSR and with other Central Eastern European countries that belonged to the Warsaw Pact. The North Atlantic Cooperation Council, established in November 1991, provides a forum for consultations between NATO members, Eastern European nations, and the former Soviet republics. In 1993 NATO members endorsed a proposal to offer former Warsaw Pact members limited associations with NATO. Under the plan, known as Partnership for Peace (PFP), nonmembers could be invited to participate in information sharing, joint exercises, and peacekeeping operations. The Partnership for Peace was a step toward providing security and cooperation throughout all of Europe. Many former Soviet satellites were eager to join. Although Russia opposed their membership and threatened to abstain from the Partnership for Peace, it did join eventually. Members of PFP may eventually attain full membership in NATO if other membership requirements, such as a trained army to join NATO troops, are met.

In 1995, after a 30-year boycott, France returned to NATO, accepting a seat on the military committee after U.S. president Bill Clinton accelerated plans for NATO’s expansion. Also at this time, the United States and NATO began serious efforts to bring to an end the continuing war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which threatened European stability. Leaders of the NATO alliance authorized a campaign of air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions to force the Bosnian Serbs to negotiate a peace settlement. After weeks of air attacks, the Bosnian Serb leaders agreed to be represented at a peace conference near Dayton, Ohio, and in December 1995 the warring parties signed a peace accord that ended the war (see Dayton Peace Accord). The following month, as part of the Dayton agreement, NATO deployed a multinational force of tens of thousands of troops, known as the Implementation Force (IFOR), to monitor and enforce the cease-fire in Bosnia. A year later NATO replaced this force with a smaller Stabilization Force (SFOR). Its mission was extended indefinitely to ensure stability in the region.

D Recent Developments

In March 1999 three former members of the Warsaw Pact—Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic—joined the alliance. The same month, NATO forces began a campaign of air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY, now the republic of Serbia and Montenegro). The NATO strikes were launched after Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević refused to accept an international peace plan that would have granted a period of autonomy for the Yugoslav province of Kosovo. The province was populated mainly by ethnic Albanians, many of whom were fighting for autonomy or independence for Kosovo. Western leaders hoped the NATO attacks would bring Milošević back to the bargaining table. They also hoped to end the ongoing repression of the minority ethnic Albanians by the FRY’s ethnic Serbian majority.

The first NATO attacks were limited to a few dozen military targets, but the alliance dramatically expanded the air campaign against the FRY after reports of widespread atrocities by Serb forces against Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian civilian population. By April 1999 more than 1,000 warplanes under NATO command were involved in strikes throughout the republic. It was the largest military operation ever undertaken by NATO.

Instead of persuading Yugoslav leaders to accept a negotiated peace, the air strikes appeared to deepen Serbian resolve to oppose NATO demands and intensified the violence directed at ethnic Albanians. Serbian army and police forces destroyed villages, killed civilians in Kosovo, and forced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians to flee the province. The flight of refugees was the largest mass migration in Europe since World War II. Critics charged that NATO failed to anticipate the refugee crisis.

International opposition to the NATO assault came swiftly. Russia, China, and India accused NATO of violating international law by not seeking the approval of the United Nations (UN) before striking Yugoslavia. Russia broke off all diplomatic ties with NATO and introduced a resolution to the UN Security Council that called for an end to the bombardment. The resolution was rejected decisively. (Russia and NATO did not formally resume contact until early 2000.)

NATO was further criticized after warplanes under its command bombed civilian structures and convoys of ethnic Albanians trying to flee Kosovo. NATO leadership apologized for the attacks, which it maintained were accidental, but insisted that Milošević was responsible for the continuing conflict. After NATO warplanes bombed China’s embassy in Belgrade by mistake, Chinese officials called on NATO to end the air campaign.

In June 1999, after 11 weeks of NATO bombing had incapacitated or destroyed much of Yugoslavia’s infrastructure, the FRY consented to most of the alliance’s demands. FRY leaders signed an agreement that ended the bombing and placed Kosovo under international control. As part of the agreement, a NATO-led multinational force of thousands of troops occupied Kosovo to help ensure the safe return of ethnic Albanian refugees. The Kosovo peacekeeping force, known as KFOR, saw its mission extended indefinitely to protect public safety, demilitarize Kosovo, and provide humanitarian assistance. The agreement also mandated the disarmament of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a guerrilla army organized prior to the NATO campaign that had attempted to drive Serb troops and police forces from the province.

The campaign against the FRY revealed the difficulty of sustaining military action that requires the consensus of the entire NATO alliance, and it exposed differences of opinion in the expanded organization. During the conflict, British leaders advocated attacking the FRY with ground forces, while other members of the alliance publicly opposed plans to invade Kosovo. Despite these disagreements, the core members of the alliance continued to support the air campaign.

NATO’s involvement in Kosovo also indicated the expanded role of the alliance in European and world affairs. Prior to the hostilities, military forces under NATO command served primarily to deter would-be attackers. During the Kosovo operation, NATO attempted to use its military might to advance humanitarian goals, to force compliance with the alliance’s wishes, and to prevent the possibility of a wider conflict in Europe. NATO intervened in Kosovo despite the fact that none of the alliance’s members were directly attacked by the FRY.

In 2002 Russia became a limited partner in NATO as part of the NATO-Russia Council. The creation of the council gave Russia the opportunity to take part in discussions about NATO decisions but without having a binding vote. Most key decisions, such as NATO’s expansion, remained exclusive to the council of ministers.

Also in 2002, NATO invited seven other countries—Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, and Slovakia—to become members of the organization. All seven were admitted in 2004, bringing NATO’s total membership to 26.

In 2003 NATO expanded its mission beyond Europe for the first time in its history by assuming control of peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan. NATO officials said the move reflected a new mission to protect its members from terrorism and other security threats. Under the Taliban regime, Afghanistan harbored the leadership of al-Qaeda, the terrorist group believed responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The United States responded by invading Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban regime. The new NATO force was initially confined to Kābul, the capital. United States-led military forces remained responsible for patrolling the rest of the country and engaging the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces that continued to resist the invasion. In 2004 some NATO forces were stationed in the northeastern town of Kondoz as part of what was expected to be an expanded role for NATO in Afghanistan.

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