The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (1949-present)
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, the Atlantic Alliance or the Western Alliance, is an international organisation1 for collective security established in 1949, in support of the North Atlantic Treaty signed in Washington, DC, on 4 April 1949. Its headquarters are located in Brussels, Belgium. Its other official name is the French equivalent, l'Organisation du Traité de l'Atlantique Nord (OTAN).
The core of NATO is Article V of the NATO Treaty, which states:
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all. Consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
The Treaty cautiously avoids reference both to the identification of an enemy and to any concrete measures of common defence. Nevertheless, 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 traditionally harboured strong isolationist groups across parties in Congress. However, the feared invasion of Western Europe never came. Instead, the provision was invoked for the first time in the treaty's history on 12 September 2001, in response to the 11 September attacks on the United States the day before.
The US President, NATO Secretary General, and the Prime Ministers of Latvia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Estonia after a South Lawn ceremony welcoming them into NATO on 29 March 2004.
The Treaty of Brussels, signed on 17 March 1948 by Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg (the Benelux countries), France, and the United Kingdom, is considered the precursor to the NATO agreement. This treaty established a military alliance, later to become the Western European Union. However, American participation was thought necessary in order to counter the military power of the Soviet Union, and therefore talks for a new military alliance began almost immediately.
These talks resulted in the North Atlantic Treaty, signed in Washington, DC, in the United States, on 4 April 1949, and included the five Treaty of Brussels states (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and the UK), United States and Canada from North America, Portugal and Italy and the three Nordic countries of Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Three years later, on 18 February 1952, Greece and Turkey also joined.
The incorporation of West Germany into the organisation on 9 May 1955 was described as "a decisive turning point in the history of our continent" by Halvard Lange, Foreign Minister of Norway at the time.  Indeed, one of its immediate results was the creation of the Warsaw Pact, signed on 14 May 1955 by the Soviet Union and its satellite states as a formal response to this event, firmly establishing the two opposing sides of the Cold War.
Early Cold War - Crisis with France
The unity of NATO was breached early on in its history, with a crisis occurring during Charles de Gaulle's presidency of France from 1958 onwards. De Gaulle protested the United States' hegemonical role in the organization and protested what he perceived as a special relationship between the United States and Great Britain. In a memorandum he sent on 17 September 1958 to President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, he argued for the creation of a tripartite Directorate that would put France on an equal footing with the United States and the United Kingdom, and also for the expansion of NATO's coverage to include geographical areas of interest to France.
Considering the response he was given unsatisfactory, De Gaulle started pursuing an independent defense for his country. France's Mediterranean fleet was withdrawn from NATO command in 11 March 1959. An independent nuclear programme was also pursued: In June 1959, De Gaulle banned the stationing of foreign nuclear weapons on French soil, which caused United States to transfer 200 military aeroplanes out of France; in 13 February 1960 France tested its first nuclear bomb -- a move much criticized among its NATO allies.
Though France showed solidarity with the rest of NATO during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, de Gaulle continued his pursuit of an independent defense by also removing the Atlantic and Channel fleets of France from NATO command. Finally on 1966 all French armed forces were removed from NATO's integrated military command and all non-French NATO troops were forced to leave France. This precipitated the relocation of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) from Paris to Brussels by 16 October 1967.
France rejoined NATO's military command in 1993.
During most of the duration of the Cold War, NATO maintained a holding pattern with no actual military engagement as an organization. On 1 July 1968, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty opened for signature: NATO argued that its nuclear weapons sharing arrangements did not breach the treaty as US forces controlled the weapons until a decision was made to go to war, at which point the treaty would no longer be controlling. Few states knew of the NATO nuclear sharing arrangements at that time, and they were not challenged.
On 30 May 1978, NATO countries officially defined two complementary aims of the Alliance, to maintain security and pursue détente. This was supposed to mean matching defences at the level rendered necessary by the Warsaw Pact's offensive capabilities without spurring a further arms race.
However, on 12 December 1979, in light of a build-up of Warsaw Pact nuclear capabilities in Europe, ministers approved the deployment of US Cruise and Pershing II theatre nuclear weapons in Europe. The new warheads were also meant to strengthen the western negotiating position in regard to nuclear disarmament. This policy was called the Dual Track policy. Similarly, in 198384, responding to the stationing of Warsaw Pact SS-20 medium-range missiles in Europe, NATO deployed modern Pershing II missiles able to reach Moscow within minutes. This action led to bitter peace movement protests throughout Western Europe.
The membership of the organization in this time period likewise remained largely static, with NATO only gaining one new member in 30 May 1982, when newly democratic Spain joined the alliance, following a referendum. Greece also in 1974 withdrew its forces from NATO's military command structure, as a result of Greco-Turkish tensions following the 1974 Cyprus dispute; Greek forces were however readmitted in 1980.
In November 1983, a NATO manoeuvre code-named Able Archer 83, which simulated a NATO nuclear release, caused panic in the Kremlin. Soviet leadership, led by ailing General Secretary Yuri Andropov became concerned that US President Ronald Reagan may have been intending to launch a genuine first strike. In response, Soviet nuclear forces were readied and air units in Eastern Germany and Poland were placed on alert. Though at the time written off by US intelligence as a propaganda effort, many historians now believe Soviet fear of a NATO first strike was genuine.
The end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, removed the de facto main adversary of NATO. This caused a strategic reevalution of NATO's purpose, nature and tasks. In practice this ended up entailing a gradual (and still ongoing) expansion of NATO to Eastern Europe, as well as the extension of its activities to areas not formerly concerning it.
The first post-Cold War expansion of NATO came with the reunification of Germany on 3 October 1990, when the former East Germany becomes 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 will not be stationed in the east.
On 28 February 1994, NATO also takes its first military action, shooting down four Bosnian Serb aircraft violating a UN no-fly zone over central Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO air strikes the following year help bring the war in Bosnia to an end, resulting in the Dayton Agreement.
Between 1994 and 1997, wider forums for regional cooperation between NATO and its neighbours are set up, like the Partnership for Peace, the Mediterranean Dialogue initiative and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. In 8 July 1997, three former communist countries, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland, were invited to join NATO, which finally happened in 1999.
On 24 March 1999, NATO saw its first broad-scale military engagement in the Kosovo War, where it waged an 11-week bombing campaign against what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Conflict ended on 11 June 1999, when Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milo”eviç agreed to NATO's demands by accepting UN resolution 1244. NATO then helped establish the KFOR, a NATO-led force under a United Nations mandate that operates the military peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
Debate concerning NATO's role and the concerns of the wider international community continued throughout its expanded military activities: The United States opposed efforts to require the UN Security Council to approve NATO military strikes, such as the ongoing action against Yugoslavia, while France and other NATO countries claimed the alliance needed UN approval. American officials said that this would undermine the authority of the alliance, and they noted that Russia and China would have exercised their Security Council vetoes to block the strike on Yugoslavia. In April 1999, at the Washington summit, a German proposal that NATO adopts a no-first-use nuclear strategy is rejected.
After the September 11th attacks
The expansion of the activities and geographical reach of NATO grew even further as an outcome of the September 11th attacks. These caused as a response the provisional invocation (on September 12) of the collective security of NATO's charter ‹ Article 5 which states that any attack on a member state will be considered an attack against the entire group of members. The invocation is confirmed on 5 October 2001 when NATO determines that the attacks were indeed eligible under the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty.
Despite this early show of solidarity, NATO would face a crisis little more than a year later, when on 10 February 2003, France and Belgium vetoed the procedure of silent approval concerning the timing of protective measures for Turkey in case of a possible war with Iraq. Germany did not use its right to break the procedure but said it supported the veto.
On the issue of Afghanistan on the other hand, the alliance showed greater unity: On 16 April 2003 NATO agreed to take command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The decision came at the request of Germany and the Netherlands, the two nations leading ISAF at the time of the agreement, and all 19 NATO ambassadors approved it unanimously. The handover of control to NATO takes place on 11 August, and marked the first time in NATO's history that it took charge of a mission outside the north Atlantic area. Canada had originally been slated to take over ISAF by itself on that date.
New NATO structures are also formed while old ones are abolished: The NATO Response Force (NRF) is launched at the 2002 Prague Summit on 21 November. 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, USA, 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 Eastern European countries to NATO: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania, which were first invited to start talks of membership during the 2002 Prague Summit. They finally joined NATO on 29 March 2004, attending their first NATO meeting on the following month, and bringing NATO's membership to its current extent. In addition, a number of other countries, also express the wish to join the alliance, including Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, and Croatia.