The North Atlantic Treaty Organistaion


The United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg initiated the organization of what would become NATO by forming the Western Union in March 1948. In January of 1949, President Harry Truman ‘although President Eisenhower, together with President Stalin and Prime Minister Churchill were the initial instigators of the concept’ called for an even broader pact, which eventually would involve the United States, Canada and European nations. The North Atlantic Treaty was eventually signed April 4, 1949. NATO was created with the sole aim of protecting Europe from Soviet aggression. However, its main achievement was to escalate the cold war. The creation of NATO intensified the fear of the Soviets regarding the West and resulted in the level of international tension reaching new heights with the United States and the Soviet Union both beginning to rebuild their military forces. The North Atlantic Treaty was signed on 4th April 1949 thus establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). In forming this pact/treaty, some European nations, committed themselves to the collective defence of one another, agreeing in principal to treat an attack on any one of them as an attack on themselves. The treaty was signed for three reasons: to prevent military conflict between the signatories; to prevent the resurgence of German aggression and to counter the military power of the Soviet Union. In 1955 the Soviet Union responded to the NATO Pact by creating a counter alliance called the ‘Warsaw Pact’ which dissolved after the break-up of the USSR in 1991

NATO originally had nineteen members and they are listed below in alphabetical order with joining dates in brackets. However since Tuesday the 31st March 2004 new members have been admitted, seven in total, with a further three being considered for membership of the alliance. These new additions will be commented on during the conclusion.

Original Members.

Belgium (1949)
Canada (1949)
Czech Republic (1999) Denmark (1949)
France (1949)
Germany (1990 - West Germany joined in 1955)
Greece (1952)
Hungary (1999)
Iceland (1949)
Italy (1949)
Luxembourg (1949)
Netherlands (1949)
Norway (1949)
Poland (1999)
Portugal (1949)
Spain (1982)
Turkey (1952)
United Kingdom (1949)
United States (1949)

Source (The Way Ahead 1949-1989).


Historically, NATO’s, first cooperative action began in June 1948, as the Soviet Union blocked allied access to the divided and occupied city of Berlin. The ‘Blockade’ (Spanier,J 1972), and the subsequent Berlin airlift focused American attention on a security pact that had been outlined by the British at a secret Pentagon meeting in March 1948.

After exhaustive negotiations in Washington that summer, the Europeans were finally able to secure agreement to an entangling alliance with the United States and Canada.
Success required the enlargement of the original group of five nations to include Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway and Portugal.

This arrangement allowed the United States to call the Alliance an “Atlantic” rather than a “European” entity, which helped to win Senate approval of the treaty. Key to the agreement was Article 5, ‘Treaty of Washington, April1949, (Spanier, J, 1972) which ensured an allied — and this meant American — response to an external attack against any partner. For full breakdown of Treaty see appendix.

This pledge, psychologically vital to the political and economic health of Western Europe, was at the heart of the North Atlantic Treaty, signed in Washington, DC, on 4th April 1949. It would appear even at the earliest inceptions of the alliance, America was already using its considerable muscle in its brokering for power.

The new allies assumed that in the short run the treaty’s declaration of intentions would suffice to deter any Soviet ambitions in Western Europe. In 1955 the Soviet Union responded to the NATO Pact by creating a counter alliance called the ‘Warsaw Pact’ which dissolved after the break-up of the USSR in 1991. However a Soviet-supported North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950 quickly dispelled any illusions and energised the Alliance on every level. Fearing that the Korean War was a prelude to a Soviet attack against West Germany, NATO leaders reshaped the Alliance into a military organisation with an integrated command structure e.g. SHAPE ‘Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe’ (Tiersky 1999), which established supreme allied commands for Europe and the Atlantic.

The transformation of the Alliance from paper treaty to a living organisation was crowned at a summit meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, in February 1952. Recognising