The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949 as an intergovernmental military alliance between 12 North American and European countries including: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Since its foundation, other states that have joined are Greece and Turkey (1952), Germany (1955), Spain (1982), the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland (1999), Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia (2004), Albania and Croatia (2009), and Montenegro (2017).
NATO’s stated purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.
POLITICAL – NATO promotes democratic values and enables members to consult and cooperate on defence and security-related issues to solve problems, build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.
MILITARY – NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. If diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military power to undertake crisis-management operations. These are carried out under the collective defence clause of NATO’s founding treaty – Article 5 of the Washington Treaty or under a United Nations mandate, alone or in cooperation with other countries and international organisations.
The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 induced NATO members to coordinate integrated defense forces through a centralized headquarters. At that time, the North Korean invasion of South Korea was widely viewed as an act of communist aggression under the direction of the USSR. In response, the United States bolstered its troop commitments to Europe to provide assurances against Soviet aggression on the European continent.