With the NATO meeting just completing in Chicago this past week, I thought it might be a good idea to write about what NATO is, when did it start, and what its primary responsibilities are.
What is NATO?
NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It is also known as the North Atlantic Alliance (although NATO does sound so much better, and I don't know if I would like NAA. It sounds like a noise a goat makes). NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty.
So, what is the North Atlantic Treaty? The North Atlantic Treaty was created when Europe and North America were worried about an attack by the USSR (the Soviet Union back then). The original twelve members of the treaty were:
The members agreed to join together if one of them were attacked. They would help defend one another against an attack by an enemy force.
Today, there are 28 countries from North America and Europe who are part of NATO. Here are the countries who joined later:
West Germany (when Germany joined back together, the entire country became a member)
Did you know that the treaty was first forced into action in 2001 after the September 11th, attack on the United States? At that time, NATO helped secure American airspace against any more terrorist attacks.
When did it begin?
NATO began on April 4, 1949. The members met in Washington, DC on that date to sign the treaty and then formed the NATO alliance. Their feelings - if one of them was attacked, then all of them were attacked and should be defended. Once an attack occurred, they would meet and decide upon a course of action. They could choose to maintain security OR they could decide to not respond at all. It all depended on the severity of the action against the country attacked.
The Korean War sorely tested the resolve of NATO. The Korean War started in 1950, just one year after the formation of NATO. Since the country was not part of NATO, the group had to decide if the spread of Communism was enough of a threat to the countries in the group to warrant action.
Why did NATO meet in Chicago?
Chicago hosted the NATO summit for the first time ever. This was also the first time a city in the US outside of Washington, DC hosted the summit. These meetings are not yearly. There have only been 25 NATO meetings over the past 60 years. As a matter of fact, the first one was in 1957 in Paris, France. The next one wasn't until 1974 in Brussels. The United States has held the summit only 3 times. In 1978, the summit was held in Washington, DC, then again in 1999. Of course the last one was just this past weekend, in Chicago.
If you want to know more about NATO - go to their website here.