NATO the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Term Paper

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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949 when twelve nations from Western Europe and North America signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, DC (, 2011). The first NATO members are listed in Appendix A along with the current membership role. The key stipulation in the treaty was that "an armed attack against one or more…" of the members "…shall be considered an attack against them all." The structure of NATO began to take shape in 1950, when the outbreak of the Korean War heightened the sense of urgency felt by the NATO members. Gen. Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Allied Commander Europe and began the task of setting up NATO's structure.

The first forty years of NATO were defined largely by the organization's role in the Cold War, standing to defend Western Europe against the communist nations of Eastern Europe. Other critical incidents that helped to define NATO's role were the Yom Kippur War between the Arabs and the Israelis, and the 1974 Cyprus crisis between Turkey and Greece, both NATO members at the time (, 2011).

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Modern NATO history begins with the end of the Cold War, a situation that brought NATO into its current role in conflict resolution around the world in areas of interest to NATO members. The organization has been a major contributor to a number of missions in the Balkans, beginning in 1991. NATO's operations during that time have included monitoring embargoes, peacekeeping and active conflict, such as enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya earlier this year. The first no-fly zone monitoring was conducting over Bosnia-Herzegovina after the United Nations declared a no-fly zone over that country in 1992.

NATO has expanded in the post-Cold War environment as well, adding the central European nations of Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary. NATO's missions have expanded in recent years to include areas of northern Africa such as Libya and the Sudan, and the shipping lanes off the Horn of Africa that have been subject to significant piracy (, 2011).

Raison d'Etre

Term Paper on NATO the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Assignment

NATO has essentially had two reasons for being in its history. The first was to protect against communist incursions into Western Europe. After the end of World War Two, NATO was created essentially as a counterweight to the Soviet Union's extensive sphere of influence. The Soviet Union was strong at the end of the war, while the armies of the Western nations were generally weak. Soviet troops began suppressing all non-Communist political opposition and Europe was being divided along communist/non-communist lines. The newly-created United Nations was quickly breaking down in terms of its ability to protect the sovereignty of nations, a situation which led the U.S., UK and Canada to forge their own solution. When France and the Low Countries joined the talks, the North Atlantic Treaty was formed (Haglund, 2011).

Thus, NATO from the beginning was set up as a military opposition to growing Soviet influence, and to provide the West with equivalent might in the Cold War to staunch the spread of communism. When the Cold War ended in the late 1980s and early 1990s and the once-powerful communist states began to either break apart or transition to capitalism, NATO's role shifted. Haglund (2011) argues that after the Cold War ended, NATO was "reconceived as a cooperative-security organization." NATO would thereby have two mandates. The first was to foster dialogue with former adversaries in the Warsaw Pact (many would eventually join NATO). The second was to manage conflicts in areas on the European periphery. This brought NATO's involvement to the Balkans, where a succession of conflicts emerged after the break-up of Yugoslavia. NATO's geographic scope has since extended into North Africa, and with the September 11th terrorist attacks, into Afghanistan as well.

Admissions Policies

Appendix A shows the NATO membership and the timeline for each country joining. After West Germany joined, there were no new members until Spain joined in 1982, and then no more new members until 1999. Since that point, there have been three enlargements of NATO, adding twelve new members. Ten of these were once part of Warsaw Pact nations and three were once part of the U.S.S.R. The other two are former Yugoslav constituent states of Slovenia and Croatia.

Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty covers the rules for joining NATO. Essentially, it is an invitation only club, wherein the current members can invite other European states to join. For example, Turkey has long blocked Cyprus from joining because of the disputed status of that island.

Internal Structure and Management

NATO has twin structures -- civilian and military -- and a number of organizations. The civilian structure consists of several divisions, including those related to defense policy and public diplomacy. The civilian headquarters is located in Brussels and has a staff of 4000. The civilian headquarters is home to the North Atlantic Council, which is the senior political decision-making body. The Council consists of high-level representatives of each member country. There is no one person who is head of NATO, though the political leaders of the constituent countries will have varying degrees of influence. The Council is chaired by the Secretary General, who is selected by the representatives of the constituent countries (, 2011).

Within the military structure there is the Military Committee, Allied Command Operations and Allied Command Transformation. It is possible for a country to be a member of NATO's civilian organization while not a member of the military organization, a move that both France and Greece have made at different points in history. Most of the organizations exist with the Military Structure. The Military Structure, however, does not shape policy, the Civilian Structure does. The one exception to this is the Nuclear Planning Group, which is the only body within NATO that has the same level of authority and the North Atlantic Council, but only within its area of expertise (, 2011).

The most prominent position within NATO's civilian leadership is the Secretary General. The current Secretary General is Anders Rasmussen from Denmark. This role is as a chair and a coordinator between the different bodies, and the Secretary General has the ability to work with all major divisions of NATO. While the Secretary General does not have sole decision-making power, this role is the most important and influential within the organization.

NATO's Activities

Because the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact essentially ended the first mandate for NATO and ushered in a new era, with a new raison d'etre, there is little point in discussing the Cold War activities of NATO outside of a historical context. Western society did manage to avoid nuclear holocaust or any significant communist incursions in Europe, other than what the Soviets had controlled after World War Two. The Cold War ended and the West won. This is oversimplification, of course, but the reality is that NATO met is most basic objectives during that, and whatever missteps might have been made along the way - no resolution to Cyprus being a big one -- are little more than footnotes in the history of that era. The more important evaluations of NATO need to reflect the modern NATO organization, its modern mission and its modern strategies.

The breakup of Yugoslavia provides much of the basis on which we can analyze NATO during the 1990s. The Eastern Bloc broke up quickly, and many states from that part of the world embarked on a process of modernizing their political and economic environments. There was certainly some hardship along the way, but the breakup of the Soviet Union created relatively little conflict, outside of the Caucasus region at least. By the end of the decade, the leading nations of Eastern Europe were set to join NATO. In the Balkans, however, the breakup of Yugoslavia left NATO with a succession of major tests to its mandate of managing conflicts on Europe's periphery. The Balkan region abuts Italy (through Slovenia, a non-conflict country) and Greece, but NATO saw the conflicts as something that it should manage, and undertake successive mission in the region. NATO's first military action came in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then NATO became involved in the still-unresolved situation in Kosovo. The organization's involvement in both of these conflicts will be analyzed for its relative success and failure.

The 2000s brought the first direct attack on a NATO member, the September 11th terrorist attacks. In accordance with Article 5, this brought NATO into conflict with al-Qaeda, and by extension the Taliban. NATO has since extended its role somewhat to become involved in Libya, the Sudan and other North African hotspots. This extension of NATO's role, particularly the use of force to support the civil uprising in Libya, represents a further evolution in NATO's role.


The breakup of Yugoslavia quickly led that region into conflict in 1991. The conflicts took on an ethnic and nationalist tone, and quickly became bloody. In November of 1991, NATO adopted its new "Strategic Concept" outlining its intentions to engage in security actions… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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NATO the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  (2011, December 6).  Retrieved November 25, 2020, from

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