The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a collective security group that was established by the North Atlantic Treaty (34 U.N.T.S. 243) in 1949 to block the threat of military aggression in Europe by the Soviet Union. NATO united Western Europe and North America in a commitment of mutual security and collective SELF-DEFENSE. Its 19 members (as of early 2004)?Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States?have used NATO as a framework for cooperation in military, political, economic, and social matters.
NATO's military forces are organized into three main commands: the Atlantic Command, the Channel Command, and the Allied Command Europe. During peacetime, the three commands plan the defense of their areas and oversee and exercise the forces of member nations. The supreme Allied commander in Europe directs these units. Every supreme Allied commander through 1997 has been a U.S. general.
NATO established the North Atlantic Council, a nonmilitary policy group, in the 1950s. It is composed of permanent delegates from all member nations and is headed by a secretary-general. It is responsible for general policy, budget issues, and administrative actions. The Military Committee, consisting of the chiefs of staff of the member nations' armed forces, meets twice a year to define military policies and offer advice to the council.
The North Atlantic Treaty calls for the peaceful resolution of disputes, but article 5 pledges the use of the member nations' forces for collective self-defense. During the 1950s Western Europe was concerned about Soviet aggression. Though U.S. troops had been stationed in Europe since the end of WORLD WAR II,
the United States and European nations did not have the resources to match the Soviet Army soldier for soldier. Instead the United States stated that it would use NUCLEAR WEAPONS against Soviet aggression in Europe.
In the 1960s the alliance was tested. President Charles de Gaulle of France complained about U.S. domination and control of NATO. In 1966 France expelled NATO troops from its soil and removed its troops from NATO command, but it remained a member of the organization. This action led to the relocation of NATO headquarters from Paris to Brussels.
With the collapse of COMMUNISM in...