The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, /ˈneɪtoʊ/; French: Organisation du traité de l’Atlantique nord, OTAN), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 member states, of which 28 are in Europe and the other 2 in North America. Established in the aftermath of World War II, the organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty, signed on 4 April 1949.
NATO constitutes a system of collective security, whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party. It was established during the Cold War in response to the threat posed by the Soviet Union. The alliance has remained in place since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and has been involved in military operations in the Balkans, the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. The NATO headquarters is located in Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium. The organization’s motto is “animus in consulendo liber” (Latin for “A mind unfettered in deliberation”).
Since its founding, the admission of new member states has increased the alliance from the original 12 countries to 30.
An additional 20 countries participate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme, with 15 other countries involved in institutionalized dialogue programmes. The combined military spending of all NATO members in 2020 constituted over 57 per cent of the global nominal total. Members agreed that their aim is to reach or maintain the target defence spending of at least 2 per cent of their GDP by 2024.
On 4 March 1947, the Treaty of Dunkirk was signed by France and the United Kingdom as a Treaty of Alliance and Mutual Assistance in the event of a possible attack by Germany or the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II. In 1948, this alliance was expanded to include the Benelux countries, in the form of the Western Union, also referred to as the Brussels Treaty Organization (BTO), established by the Treaty of Brussels. Talks for a new military alliance, which could also include North America, largely on the insistence of the United States pursuant to the Truman Doctrine, resulted in the signature of the North Atlantic Treaty on 4 April 1949 by the member states of the Western Union plus the United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Lester B. Pearson was a key author and drafter of the treaty.
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