A name that has been a common feature in the news these days is NATO. We’ve listed 10 things that you would do well to know about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and what it does.
What is NATO?
Simply put, NATO is a military and political organisation that was founded by the UK and comprises 29 member countries that span across Europe and North America. It was founded in 1949 and since then works to encourage integration among countries as well as responding to threats to Europe.
The organisation works on political and military means. This is through the promotion and following of democratic values and peaceful resolution when disputes arise. If in the case these diplomatic efforts do not yield results, the alliance can resort to crisis management operations.
NATO member countries
The 12 founding member countries of NATO are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There are also countries that have aspiring NATO status and these are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, and Ukraine.
The member countries are Albania, Lithuania, Belgium, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Canada, Netherlands, Croatia, North Macedonia, Czech Republic, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Portugal, France, Romania, Germany, Slovakia, Greece, Slovenia, Hungary, Spain, Iceland, Turkey, Italy, United Kingdom, Latvia, United States.
A British leadership legacy
The first General Secretary of NATO was decorated military officer Lord Ismay and was appointed to the post on March 13, 1952. Interesting to know is that the secretary generalship has always been held by a European. Former Prime Minister of Norway and UN Special Envoy Jens Stoltenberg holds the position as the current General Secretary of NATO.
An attack on one is an attack on all
The term known as collective defence is also Article 5 of the Washington Treaty which is the founding document of the NATO alliance. It translates to the fact that if there should be an attack on any one of the allies of NATO, it is considered as an attack on all of them and will be retaliated accordingly. This is also the cornerstone on which the organisation operates. It was invoked following the brutal 9/11 terrorist attacks wherein the United States was targeted on September 11, 2001.
In order to stand in solidarity with the United States and follow the Article, a package of eight measures was agreed upon by the members of the alliance. An anti-terror operation – Eagle Assist – was launched from mid-October 2001 to mid-May 2002. As part of this operation, 7 NATO AWACS radar aircraft patrolled the skies over the United States. This translated to 830 crew members from 13 NATO countries.
While NATO comes into action when there is a military threat to any of its members, it is constantly on the alert and training for such a situation. This constant vigilance and training ensure that when there is a threat to freedom to any of the members of the alliance, NATO can jump into action and defend its freedom.
Decision making in NATO
When it comes to making a decision regarding any military or political action, there is a principle of common consent that is followed. All member countries’ views are taken into account and only then is a consensus reached. This is different from other organisations in the sense that there is no voting practice that is followed. Instead, consultations are held until there is a decision that is in everyone’s favour and one that all agree upon.
For the purpose of military advancement and upgrading and the operations it carries out not to mention training costs, NATO requires funds. These funds come from the member countries. During the 2014 summit, it was agreed upon by the member countries that NATO members would spend 2% of their GDPs. While some nations haven’t been able to keep to this figure, the United States has crossed it, spending 3.6% of its GDP on defence.
The percentages spent by the countries are as follows. United States (3.6%), Greece (2.4%), the United Kingdom (2.1%), Poland (2.0%), France (1.8%), Romania (1.8%), Latvia (1.8%), Lithuania (1.7%), and Norway (1.6%).
Partner nations of NATO
While the founding, member, and aspiring nations have been discussed, NATO also has partner nations. It establishes relations with these for the purpose of maintaining peace. An instance of this is when in the 1994 Mediterranean Dialogue there was a relation of NATO with Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia for the purpose of security and stability in the Mediterranean.
With 50% of the world’s total GDP, NATO is a premier organisation that is built with alliances and when there is a threat that arises, 3 million men and women can be called upon for active service to defend the country at risk.
Securing the skies
Ukraine calling for a no-fly zone is an instance of this wherein the NATO aircraft would patrol the skies above Ukraine and shoot at enemy planes that are targeting civilians on the ground. While this plea has been dismissed saying that it would lead to World War III, the member countries of NATO namely Albania, Luxembourg, Iceland, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are protected in this manner year-round. This is due to their not having their own air capabilities.