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70 Years of NATO

There is safety in numbers. An attack against one is an attack against us all. The concept of “collective defense” is the foundation for the establishment of NATO, a military alliance of 29 nations created in 1949 with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Europe in the mid-1900’s was characterized by the rising and falling of dynasties, empires, and dictatorships. When WWII ended, one point agreed upon universally was that the capabilities of modern warfare were destructive beyond measure. World leaders had to find a way to transcend cultural differences and talk about a lasting peace. In 1945, the United Nations was formed, not only to prevent future wars but to maintain international law in the interest of protecting standards of living around the world.

Though the UN’s Security Council was responsible for maintaining peace and security around the globe, member-states such as the Soviet Union, Germany, Italy, and Japan had veto power within the council and could influence military enforcement. Smaller European countries that were still rebuilding their infrastructure after WWII were wary of their disadvantage.

In 1949, the idea of a military alliance between Great Britain and France expanded to include Belgium, the US and Canada and seven other founding members. In the preceding years, seventeen other countries became members of NATO and, today, 21 others partner with the organization’s many programs.

The North Atlantic Treaty

The preamble of the treaty reiterates the ideals of the United Nations Charter, that members seek to live in peace with each other and to safeguard the principles of “democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.”

Article 5 is a “call to war.” The agreement states that if one of the member countries is under an armed attack, the others must consider it an attack on themselves. NATO’s Article 5 was invoked in 2001, in the months and years following the September 11 attacks on the United States

Articles 1-14 of the charter outline the structure of NATO that has become much more complex since it’s founding 70 years ago. NATO is both a political and a military organization, and member countries agree to first try to resolve their differences by peaceful means, escalating their disputes to the United Nations when appropriate.

NATO Summits occur annually. In 2019, heads-of-state traveled to the UK and were welcomed by Queen Elizabeth on December 3 with a reception at Buckingham Palace.

In 2022, the summit will be in Madrid, Spain from June 29-30.