A Guide to NATO


North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was first established in 1949 as a Political and Military Alliance.  NATO member nations jointly coordinate to assist other member nations in Emergency Management situations.  In the event of a crisis, it is the duty of all member nations to collectively respond to the crisis.  Politically, Nato is tasked with preventing global conflict, building trust with other nations, and working collaboratively to increase global problem-solving efforts.  In the alliance, there are currently 30 member nations.

All Nato Members agree that, if they are attacked by another nation (outside of NATO member nations), that they will step in and provide support to defend the country that is being attacked. The collective defense concept is one of the many arrangements that countries have agreed to when joining NATO.  Alongside collective defense, all member nations have also agreed to contribute at least 2 percent of their annual GDP to NATO.

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Current NATO Operations
Currently, member countries oversee different Global Initiatives, such as the Nuclear Member group, which discusses measures to ensure nuclear safety. The members also make any necessary legislative changes to global nuclear policy.  Other Political operations include the National Atlantic Council.  The NAC is a committee that meets weekly to discuss the different issues that arise globally. Each member nation has a seat on the National Atlantic Council, which can hold its own emergency council meetings, if necessary. The Secretary General currently presides over these council meetings, usually helping to bring matters to a resolution. The NAC is the principle decision-making process of NATO. NATO is also composed of several sub councils that help troubleshoot more political and technical issues.  All member nations are able to sit in on these meetings.

NATO also has a large military operation.  The Chief Military decision-making body for Nato is the Military Committee and includes all member nations. Defense Heads meet together with the executive military staff of these member nations.  It is comprised of two different sub committees; these committees consist of the Allied Command Operations and Allied Command Transformations.  These two Military committees make decisions on when to launch military operations, when and how to allocate military resources, and determine how long these resources are in use.  Once the Mission is over, these forces return to their respective countries.

Current NATO Secretary General
The Current NATO Deputy Secretary General is Jens Stoltenberg. He became the Secretary General of NATO on October 1, 2014 and has been in the position for 6 years.  His term recently extended for another 4 years, and his current term will end in 2022. The Secretary General oversees all of the decision-making process for NATO and all of the committees that the member nations take part in. The Secretary General does not have a defined term limit, though he or she serves an initial period of four years before member nations decide to renew the Secretary General’s term or choose a new Secretary General. Secretary Generals continue to serve until NATO member nations reach a consensus on a new Secretary General. Traditionally, the role has been held by a European candidate.

Additional duties of the Secretary General include chairing all of the meetings of the National Atlantic Council, serving as the national spokesperson for NATO, and playing an integral part of the different decision-making processes of NATO.  The Secretary General is also in charge of leading the international staff through their assigned missions.  Lastly, the Secretary General is tasked with organizing collaborative missions among the member nations and their teams.

Image courtesy of Paul Morse, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

History of NATO

NATO was originally formed in 1949 under The Washington Treaty, or North Atlantic Treaty, which serves as the foundation for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. Since the Soviet Union was expanding its territory and installing communist governments across Asia and eastern Europe, the primary goal of the treaty was the collective defense of Western nations from any and all attacks made by the Soviet Union. According to Article V of the treaty, an attack on one of the nations was, and still is, considered an attack on all of the nations. Though there are now 30 members of NATO, the founding members of the treaty included the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal. Since the formation of the treaty in ‘49, many more nations have joined the pact. A full list of the nations and the dates they joined is provided below.

Founding Nations (1949)
United StatesCanadaBelgiumDenmarkGreat BritainFrance
IcelandItalyLuxembourgThe NetherlandsNorwayPortugal


Newer Nations
Greece (1952)Turkey (1952)Germany (1955)Spain


The Czech Republic


























North Macedonia


Historically, the USSR also established its own treaty, the Warsaw Pact. Backed by NATO member nations, West Berlin was considering establishing its own army; however, the USSR warned that if West Berlin created this army, the Soviet Union would establish their own treaty among eastern nations. West Berlin decided to create their own army anyway, and thus the Warsaw Pact was created by eastern nations to counter the western bloc. Members of the Warsaw Pact included Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Albania, East Germany, Bulgaria, and, of course, the Soviet Union. In 1991, the treaty fell alongside the USSR.

Image courtesy of DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

NATO Today
Given that Montenegro was added recently, in 2017, and North Macedonia was added even more recently, this year, NATO still plays a large role in bringing these Western nations together. Though the treaty no longer serves as a defense against the Soviet Union and its Communist regime, today the treaty serves as a military and political alliance between the nations. The treaty promotes democracy, diplomacy in conflict, and cooperation on defense and security issues. Alongside these issues, the treaty is also intended to initiate crisis-management resolutions, build trust among member nations, and ultimately, prevent conflict.

Newest on NATO
During the current pandemic, NATO has played a crucial role in providing support and relief to member nations. NATO has assisted in supplying technological communication devices to different navies, including providing satellite equipment to the German Navy. This satellite equipment allows member nations to efficiently call for help during emergency situations. The call sign for the member nations is “Bravo Zulu”, which they use to call on the other nations for aid and assistance.  Each member nation equipped with this satellite technology will be instructed to use this call sign when broadcasting messages on this airwave.  NATO forces will be investing 1 Billion Euros over the next 15 years, devoted entirely to satellite services for its member nations.

NATO member nations are also focused on replacing cryptographic, or telecommunication, materials on vessel ships, as well as, by supplying technological equipment to improve the life spans of these navy ships.  The hope is that, being able to provide these technological upgrades to these ships, NATO will be able to increase secure communications with the vessels equipped with this new technology.

NATO has also diverted valuable resources to combat the global pandemic. NATO has been working on expanding the global testing capacity of its member nations by providing test kits, masks and other supplies to servicemen. NATO is also aiding in the fight to control the Coronavirus. The powerful alliance is establishing different logistical routes to deliver supplies in much needed areas in half the time. According to NATO, before these new routes were established, it was a logistical nightmare to bring the supplies to their respective destinations, as it took at least 7 days to deliver the supplies to nations like Afghanistan. Other member nations have contributed funding and testing capabilities to help the situation that is emerging in Afghanistan.  Countries such as Australia, the United States, and Norway have all decided to donate key resources to be able to help Afghanistan. Member nations have also provided support for Bosnia-Herzegovina, sending thousands of masks, hundreds of face shields, and hundreds of goggles and protective garments. NATO has also supplied bed linens and sheets and disinfectant, such as hand sanitizer.

Image courtesy of Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Prior US Administration’s Take on NATO
Likely because of President Trump’s dislike of treaties and alliances and because of his strong relationship with Russia, specifically Vladimir Putin, President Trump has been wanting the United States to withdraw from the anti-Russian-aggression treaty for several years. Over the course of 2018, President Trump suggested withdrawing from NATO to some of his close officials, and, in 2019, President Trump publicly announced his wanting to remove the United States from the treaty. Previously, presidential norms have restricted past presidents from withdrawing from large treaties, such as NATO; however, technically, President Trump does have the authority to remove the United States from the historical alliance.

Though President Trump despises the treaty and has the authority to leave it, he has not exercised this power, thus maintaining the United States’ powerful presence in the historical treaty. Fortunately or unfortunately, the president does not see the point of the treaty, and, in fact, sees it as a drain on the United States. Trump has stated in a tweet, that, “The U.S. pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!” The president has voiced repeated concerns over how much the United States spends on NATO and has criticized some European nations for not carrying their fair share of the alliance’s heavy financial burden. Critics of Trump and several admirals argue that removing the United States from NATO would be a decision with disastrous effects. Retired Admiral James G. Stavridis said that removing the U.S. would be a gift to Putin and would be “a geopolitical mistake of epic proportion”. Trump’s dislike of NATO is quite consistent with his policy, as he has opposed a plethora of alliances and treaties, including the Paris Climate Accord, the ‘Open Skies’ Treaty, and an Asia-Pacific trade pact.

More recently, in January of 2020, President Trump asked NATO to become more involved “in the Middle East process”. He expected European nations to withdraw from the Iran deal and make a new agreement that “makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.” Given his previously outspoken dislike for NATO, his decision to encourage NATO to become more involved in Middle Eastern affairs was especially surprising. Although President Trump hopes to see an increase of involvement in “the Middle East process”, NATO member nations will still need some convincing to believe that disbanding the Iran deal and becoming more involved in the Middle East is the best path forward.

The Current US Administration Take on Nato
With Joe Biden’s administration change and reverse of the Trump administrations take on NATO, He in the first week halted the move of US troops out of Germany. He has pledge that the “US is Back” and its commitment to NATO and its security are priority one for the Biden Administration.


























Featured Image courtesy of Current file:Found by 475847394d347339 in websites noted in the source section.Previous file:Vectorization: Mysid and uploaded to Flag of NATO.svgCode cleaned up by Artem Karimov., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Author: Naomi Matthusen

Naomi Matthusen is a junior at Queens University of Charlotte, majoring in Political Science and double minoring in French and Professional Writing & Rhetoric. She has conducted political and legal research on a variety of topics during her time as a student at Queens, and she has canvassed for several political campaigns, has worked for a law firm, and has been involved in politics at the state level.

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