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This website offers immediate access to information on NATO's policies and structures, official documents, press releases, speeches and publications and provides links to other relevant sites.
The homepage looks at key topics on NATO's current agenda and the latest developments relating to them.
In these welcome pages readers will be able to obtain an overview of NATO itself and how it has evolved; its transformation since the end of the Cold War; the broad framework for security for its member and partner countries; its current role in bringing peace to the Balkan region; initiatives taken at NATO's most recent Summit meeting held in Washington in April 1999; and the Alliance's "third dimension" activities in the fields of civil emergency planning and scientific cooperation.
Information correct as of August 2000
In the early 1990s, Allied leaders took a number of decisions that would in effect create a "new" NATO. Building on the continuing commitment of its member countries to collective defence, these decisions included underlining the openness of the Alliance to new members in a position to contribute to the common security as well as to share in it; launching new cooperative partnerships with other non-NATO countries through the Partnership for Peace initiative; restructuring NATO's own internal military arrangements; building a stronger European Security and Defence Identity within the Alliance; accepting new missions such as peacekeeping in regions where conflicts threaten stability and subject local populations to humanitarian tragedy; and developing new initiatives to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction which represents a threat to the whole world.
Since its foundation in 1949, the Alliance has remained open to new member countries able to meet the obligations and responsibilities of membership. At the Madrid Summit Meeting in July 1997, the NATO Allies decided to invite three prospective new member countries to begin negotiations on accession to the Treaty, namely the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. The three countries formally became members of the Alliance in March 1999.
The decision to enlarge NATO was not taken in isolation but was part of a wider process leading to greater European integration. The door to membership of NATO remains open to other countries wishing to join in the future. At the NATO Summit Meeting in Washington in April 1999, the Alliance launched a Membership Action Plan to assist aspiring countries in preparing for membership.
An essential part of the process of modernising the Alliance has been the restructuring of its own military forces and command arrangements. The military forces of most NATO member countries have been significantly reduced and reorganised. New concepts have been introduced to give them greater mobility and flexibility and to facilitate the participation of non-NATO Partner countries in NATO operations.
One of the most significant innovations has been the development of the concept of "Combined Joint Task Forces" (CJTFs). This provides for force structures, which can be adapted to meet different needs and will allow the Alliance to carry out more effectively both its collective defence role and its new missions. At the same time, the reform of the integrated command structure has reduced the number of NATO military headquarters by two thirds, from some 65 to about 20.
In 1994, the Alliance committed itself to supporting the development of a much stronger European Security and Defence Identity or "ESDI". It is working together with the Western European Union, known as the WEU, which is a European security organisation, in order to achieve this. Measures have been introduced which would enable the Western European Union to use NATO assets and capabilities for WEU-led operations. The concept of "Combined Joint Task Forces" (known by the acronym - "CJTF") gives the Alliance the flexibility required to do this, through arrangements which allow the forces required to be "separable" but not "separate" from the forces available to NATO.
These arrangements are designed to avoid creating parallel or duplicative structures within Europe. They will allow the European Allies to take greater responsibility in European security affairs, especially in circumstances, which do not need to involve the whole Alliance. Over time it is to be expected that the role fulfilled by the Western European Union will be increasingly blended with the structures of the European Union itself, enabling a more comprehensive development of the European identity in security-related issues. At the Washington Summit meeting in 1999, Alliance leaders called for continuing work to make ESDI a reality.
The Helsinki meeting of the Council of the European Union held in December 1999, established a "Headline Goal" for EU member states in terms of their military capabilities for crisis management operations. The aim is to enable the EU to deploy, by the year 2003, and sustain for at least one year, military forces of up to 50,000 to 60,000 troops to undertake the full range of the so-called Petersberg tasks set out in the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997. These consist of humanitarian and rescue tasks; peacekeeping tasks; and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking. Their role would be to undertake military operations led by the EU in response to international crisis, in circumstances where NATO as a whole is not engaged militarily. This process is part of the EU's resolve to develop a common European policy on security and defence. Both these initiatives should contribute to a rebalancing of roles and responsibilities between European and North American Allies within NATO.
NATO's cooperative approach to security has resulted in the creation of close relations with non-NATO countries through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Partnership for Peace initiative, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council, the NATO-Ukraine Commission, and the Mediterranean Dialogue. All these play an essential part in establishing the multilateral and bilateral links which enable all the countries concerned to satisfy their own security requirements while contributing to the security of the Euro-Atlantic area as a whole.
The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council - or EAPC - forms an all-embracing multilateral framework for cooperation among 46 countries in the Euro-Atlantic region. It is the forum in which Allies and Partner countries consult on issues ranging from crisis management and peacekeeping to regional security, arms control, defence policy and strategy, civil emergency planning, scientific cooperation, and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. As an active participant in the Partnership for Peace programme, a Partner country may also consult with NATO on an individual basis if it perceives a threat to its territorial integrity, political independence or security.
In April 1999, EAPC leaders met at Summit level following the NATO Summit in Washington. They expressed their support for the demands of the international community relating to Kosovo and their abhorrence of the policies of violence, repression and ethnic cleansing being carried out in Kosovo by the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. They also expressed their support for broad-based security and for economic and democracy-building efforts for the southeastern European region; and endorsed a report entitled "Towards a Partnership for the 21st Century - The Enhanced and more Operational Partnership", which aims to improve the ability of the Alliance and Partner forces to operate together in the future.
Member Countries of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council
The EAPC brings together the 19 member countries of NATO plus:
Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1), Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan
- Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.
In 1994, NATO launched the Partnership for Peace (PfP). The programme has steadily grown both in membership and in the range of practical, military and defence-related areas of cooperation in which PfP countries are involved. Twenty-six countries now participate. The principal objectives of the Partnership are to improve the capacity of Allies and Partner countries to work together in joint operations.
Through its focus on practical cooperation tailored to the individual needs of each country, the Partnership for Peace has also been a key factor in developing a new security relationship between the Alliance and its Partner countries. It is the embodiment of NATO's cooperative approach to security.
NATO and Russia
The Alliance countries regard Russia as a vital present and future player in European security. In 1996, they therefore proposed to Russia that they should develop jointly a fundamentally new cooperative relationship. The result is the NATO-Russia Founding Act, created in May 1997, and the establishment of a NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC). The PJC provides the mechanism by which the Alliance and Russia can consult regularly on political and security-related issues, including peacekeeping, nuclear safety, defence conversion, arms control and environmental protection. It also provides the framework for military cooperation between NATO and Russia.
The NATO Allies believe that security in Europe cannot fully be built without Russia, and that they must seek, together with Russia, to build trust and cooperation and to handle future security problems together. The mutual suspicions which existed between East and West during the Cold War belong to the past. It is important to establish a lasting, constructive basis for future cooperation. The Alliance is therefore determined to establish mutual respect and understanding and a solid foundation for a genuine partnership with Russia and other countries in the region.
Russia suspended cooperation with NATO following the beginning of the air campaign initiated by the Alliance in March 1999 to end the conflict in Kosovo. However, when the air campaign ended, Russia agreed to contribute significant forces to the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), set up under United Nations auspices to prevent a resumption of the conflict and to create the conditions for peace.
NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson visited Moscow in February 2000. It was agreed during the visit that the NATO-Russia relationship should be restored to a level that would allow for cooperation in dealing with future challenges. There was also agreement to resume a proper dialogue on a wide range of security issues in the future.
When the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council met on 15 March, discussions took place on the situation in the former Yugoslavia and NATO-Russia cooperation in the international security presence in Kosovo. Ambassadors reiterated the determination of NATO and Russia to cooperate closely in all areas, including the protection of Kosovo's minorities.
Ukraine occupies a key place in the political geography of the European continent. A stable and secure Ukraine is essential to wider stability in the region. In addition to the cooperative activities already underway through Ukrainian participation in the Partnership for Peace, NATO and Ukraine have also developed a special relationship based on the unique position and aspirations of this new democracy.
In 1997, a "Charter on a Distinctive Relationship between NATO and Ukraine" was signed, establishing a NATO-Ukraine Commission. This provides a forum in which NATO countries and Ukraine can discuss security issues of common interest as well as planning and implementing cooperative activities.
NATO leaders held their first-ever summit with the President of Ukraine in Washington, in April 1999, and acknowledged the importance of Ukraine to Euro-Atlantic security and stability. Both sides welcomed the progress in their Distinctive Partnership and discussed a variety of Euro-Atlantic security issues.
The NATO-Ukraine Commission met in Kyiv for the first time in March 2000, marking a further step in developing practical cooperation in numerous fields including civil emergency planning/disaster preparedness, Ukrainian defence reform, science and technology issues and economic aspects of security.
In 1994, NATO initiated a dialogue with six countries in the Mediterranean region: Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. Algeria became a participant in March 2000. The Dialogue is aimed at creating good relations and better mutual understanding throughout the Mediterranean, as well as promoting regional security and stability.
At the Washington Summit in April 1999, Alliance leaders decided to enhance both the political and practical dimensions of the Dialogue. Among other things this would create further opportunities for discussion and for strengthening cooperation in areas where NATO can bring added value. This applies particularly in the military field and in other areas where Dialogue countries have expressed interest.
The Mediterranean Dialogue is an integral part of the Alliance's cooperative approach to security and is based on the recognition that security in the whole of Europe is closely linked to security and stability in the Mediterranean region."
Building Peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo
In 1995, the opposing sides in the civil war in Bosnia signed the Dayton Agreement which put in place a peace settlement. NATO and non-NATO countries immediately deployed 60,000 troops to Bosnia to monitor compliance with the Agreement and, if necessary, to enforce the military aspects of it. This prevented renewed conflict and helped to provide a secure environment in which to lay the foundations for a lasting peace.
The NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) successfully carried out its initial one-year mandate. It was then replaced by a smaller Stabilisation Force (SFOR), which continues to provide the stable environment necessary for re-building this country. SFOR's mandate is kept under constant review by the North Atlantic Council and reductions in its size and structure are being made. Simultaneously, NATO is providing support for a civilian Security Cooperation Programme (SCP) designed to promote reconciliation and strengthen stability in the longer term.
Both IFOR and SFOR have demonstrated NATO's effectiveness in contributing to peacekeeping, as well as the success of the Partnership for Peace programme in preparing NATO members and Partner countries to work together, not just in theory but in confronting real situations on the ground. Since June 1999, building on this experience, the NATO-led force in Kosovo (KFOR) has been engaged in the task of establishing the conditions for a democratic, multi-ethnic society in Kosovo.
Washington Summit Initiatives
From 23-25 April 1999, NATO held the 15th Summit in its 50-year history in Washington, DC. The Summit took place during an exceptional period in the Alliance's history, in the midst of a commemoration of its 50th Anniversary, tempered by an unprecedented NATO air campaign aimed at bringing peace to Kosovo, in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Although much of the focus at the Summit was necessarily on the crisis in Kosovo, in Washington NATO leaders took a number of other important initiatives in key policy fields.
Membership Action Plan
NATO leaders welcomed the leaders of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to their first Summit as member countries of the Alliance and emphasised that the door would remain open to others. A Membership Action Plan (MAP) was unveiled at the Summit. The MAP is a programme of activities from which interested countries may choose, on the basis of national decisions and self-selection. The programme covers five areas: political and economic issues, defence/military issues, resources, security and legal issues. NATO stresses that the programme should not be considered as a list of criteria for membership, and that active participation in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) remains essential for countries interested in possible future membership. Any decision on membership would be made on a case-by-case basis, by consensus.
In 1997, at the Summit Meeting in Madrid, NATO leaders requested a review of the Alliance's Strategic Concept (in essence the roadmap of Alliance tasks and the means to achieve them). In Washington, they approved a new Strategic Concept reflecting the transformed Euro-Atlantic security landscape at the end of the 20th century. The Strategic Concept equips the Alliance for the security challenges and opportunities of the 21st century and guides its future political and military development.
NATO also launched a major initiative designed to improve the Defence Capabilities of the Alliance to ensure the effectiveness of future multinational operations across the full spectrum of Alliance missions, in the present and foreseeable security environment. The Initiative focuses especially on improving interoperability among Alliance forces and, where applicable, also between Alliance and Partner forces. In addition it is designed to make these forces more mobile, sustainable and effective.
The Washington Summit Communiqué outlined another new Alliance initiative, on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). NATO's principal aim with regard to these destructive weapons is to "prevent proliferation from occurring, or, should it occur, to reverse it through diplomatic means." In order to respond more effectively to the challenges of proliferation, NATO is establishing a WMD Centre within the International Staff at NATO Headquarters to coordinate an integrated political-military approach to resolving the problems raised by WMD proliferation.
NATO's Third Dimension
The fundamental roles of NATO have always been concerned with security cooperation between member countries and, in more recent years, with Partner countries, in the political and defence fields. These have therefore been regarded as the first and second "dimensions" of the Alliance. For many years, however, NATO has also actively pursued cooperation in relation to civil emergency planning and scientific and environmental cooperation. Together these can be regarded as the "Third Dimension" of the Alliance.
Responding to Civil Emergencies
The relevance of the Alliance in today's world is thus as great as it has ever been and the tasks with which it is entrusted today of no less critical importance than those it faced when it was created over fifty years ago.
NATO Allies and Partner countries have developed cooperative measures and activities to enable them to share their civil resources in order to cope with emergencies. Using the Alliance's civil emergency planning arrangements as a basis, the Partnership for Peace programme has opened the way for joint activities in planning and preparing for humanitarian and search and rescue operations.
Early in 1998, based on a proposal by Russia, a Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Unit was created. This unit, located in Brussels, has already been instrumental in coordinating relief to Ukraine following the serious flooding which occurred in Western Ukraine in November 1998; in providing assistance to humanitarian agencies in the Balkans in the wake of the exodus of refugees from Kosovo in 1998 and 1999; and in coordinating requests for assistance and responses from EAPC countries following the major earthquake which struck Turkey in August 1999.
The concept of cooperative security includes a broad range of global concerns, which transcend national boundaries. These include maintaining a strong scientific base, preserving the physical environment, managing natural resources and preserving health. NATO addresses these issues through programmes, which support scientific cooperation in advancing the frontiers of science generally, as well as tackling specific scientific and environmental problems of concern to NATO countries and Partner countries alike.
The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in Washington on 4 April 1949, creating an alliance of 12 independent nations committed to each other's defence. Four more European nations later acceded to the Treaty between 1952 and 1982. On 12 March 1999, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were welcomed into the Alliance, which now numbers 19 members.
The North Atlantic Treaty has continued to guarantee the security of its member countries. Today, following the end of the Cold War and of the division of Europe, the Alliance has been restructured to enable it to contribute more effectively to the development of cooperative security structures for the whole of Europe. It has also transformed its political and military structures in order to adapt them to peacekeeping and crisis management tasks undertaken in cooperation with countries, which are not members of the Alliance, and with other international organisations.
The fundamental role of NATO is to safeguard the freedom and security of its member countries. It is one of the foundations on which the stability and security of the Euro-Atlantic area depends and it serves as an essential forum for transatlantic consultations on matters affecting the vital security interests of all its members. Its first task is to deter and defend against any threat of aggression against any of them.
In order to improve security and stability in the area, the North Atlantic Alliance also plays a key role in the field of crisis management, by contributing to effective conflict prevention and, in the event of a crisis, by taking appropriate action to resolve the crisis when there is consensus among the member countries to do so. In addition, the Alliance promotes partnership and cooperation with other countries in the Euro-Atlantic area, aimed at increasing openness, mutual confidence and the capacity for joint action.
Since the signing of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of NATO's biggest challenges has been to help to implement the agreement, first by establishing and leading a multinational, military Implementation Force, known as IFOR, and subsequently by dispatching a similar Stabilisation Force (SFOR) to help to build the basis for future peace in the region. It has effectively prevented renewed fighting and created a successful precedent for coordinated multinational efforts, involving NATO and non-NATO countries, to bring hope and realistic prospects for peaceful future development to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Today the Alliance is also working to reverse ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, enabling the hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees who fled from repression during the spring of 1999 to return safely to their homeland. The role of the NATO-led multinational force in Kosovo is to create a secure environment in which all the people of Kosovo, regardless of their ethnic origins, can live in peace; to help them to rebuild their lives and homes; and to rebuild the structures of a peaceful and democratic society which are essential if there is to be a lasting political solution to the conflict.
The task which has been undertaken by the Alliance in Kosovo, against the background of the efforts of the international community to create an environment which will promote lasting peace and stability in south-eastern Europe as a whole, remains at the top of the NATO agenda.
In addition, the Alliance is working intensively to develop constructive relations with Russia which will promote understanding and establish cooperation on a sound and permanent basis; to build on its distinctive partnership with Ukraine; to develop its cooperation with other Partner countries throughout central and eastern Europe and to prepare the path towards further enlargement of the Alliance in the coming years; to extend its cooperation with the countries participating in its Mediterranean dialogue; to pursue its work on the strengthening of the European role in NATO while preserving and reinforcing the transatlantic relationship which is central to its existence; and to translate into concrete action the lessons learned from the conflict in Kosovo and the security requirements of the 21st century by developing more flexible and more mobile multinational military capabilities and command structures.
The Alliance has a responsibility to its member countries to establish a basis for achieving these objectives by making optimum use of its assets and economical use of its resources, and by drawing maximum benefit from the well-established political solidarity and military cooperation which have enabled it to fulfil its functions for more than fifty years.To enable it to accomplish these tasks and to meet its continuing obligation to provide security for its members, the Alliance is playing a central role in building new structures for Euro-Atlantic security which can overcome misunderstandings and mistrust by building up consultation, cooperation and confidence at every level.
NATO's essential purpose is to ensure the freedom and security of its members by political and military means, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. It is dedicated to protecting democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The best means of safeguarding these shared values is to bring about a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe as a whole. NATO has worked since its inception to achieve this goal. Since 1989 and the end of the artificial division of Europe which prevailed during the Cold War, enormous progress has been made but the task is not over. This central objective remains unchanged.
NATO is the only security organisation linking the United States and Canada to Europe. After World War II, while the European Allies were rebuilding their shattered economies, restoring their industries and developing their defence capabilities, their security was mainly provided by the guarantee written into the North Atlantic Treaty that their North American Allies would treat a threat to any member country of the Alliance as a threat to themselves.
At the same time, a high degree of political solidarity amongst all the member countries was achieved by their willingness to apply the same reciprocal commitment to each other: each would react to a threat to an allied country as a threat to themselves. This reciprocity, combined with the North American security umbrella, depended upon the willingness of all members of the Alliance to build up sufficient military capabilities, working together within the framework provided by the Alliance.
For many years, while the European member countries provided the major part of the military forces stationed in Europe, much of the economic burden of transatlantic security, as well as the task of playing a leading role in the political development of the Alliance, was shouldered by the United States. Today the balance is being gradually readjusted. North America and Europe are playing more equal roles, strengthening NATO's identity not only as a community of shared values but as an alliance of shared responsibilities, linked by an ocean.
The 19 member countries of the North Atlantic Alliance:
|Turkey||United Kingdom||United States|
Through initiatives such as the creation of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) and Partnership for Peace (PfP) in 1991 and 1994 respectively, and the establishment of a new Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in 1997, the member countries of NATO have opened the way for new forms of partnership and cooperation with other countries within the framework of the Alliance. On 27 May 1997, in Paris, NATO and Russia signed a historic agreement on their future relations. A few days later a NATO-Ukraine Charter was initialed in Sintra, Portugal, where NATO and Partner countries met to inaugurate the EAPC. A Dialogue with the Me diterranean countries, initiated in December 1995, is also being further developed. New structures and procedures designed to further the internal adaptation of NATO are being implemented. As part of this process, the development of the European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) within the Alliance, and the implementation of the concept of Combined Joint Task Force (CJTFs) are also being pursued.
In July 1997, Heads of State and Government met at Summit level in Madrid to take decisions on opening NATO to new members and on future policies in all these fields. Further initiatives were taken at the Washington Summit in April 1999.
- NATO Basic Document:
- The North Atlantic Treaty
- NATO Basic Fact Sheet :
- What is NATO?
- The NATO Handbook 50th Anniversary ed. 1998
- Core Functions
- NATO Today
- NATO Review: No 1, 1999:
- The Washington Summit, NATO steps boldly into the 21st century. Letter from the Secretary General
- NATO Review: No. 4, 1999:
- "NATO in the new millennium"
The 19 NATO Countries with links to their national information servers.
The fundamental commitment of all members of the Alliance to each other's security is enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that an attack against one member country is considered as an attack against all. The Alliance's integrated military structure and common defence planning procedures underpin this commitment to collective defence. They are at the heart of the Alliance's strength and credibility.
During the Cold War, the Alliance's primary political and military concern was to ensure that it would be able to defend its members against the possible use of military force against them. Since the beginning of the 1990s, following the end of the Cold War, NATO has been able to take a wider view of security in which building up trust and developing cooperation with non-member countries plays an equally important role.
The enhancement of stability and security in today's Europe therefore involves other countries and other international organisations in new cooperative arrangements. The Alliance is contributing to the building of new structures for European security in which countries of the Euro-Atlantic region can participate both individually, and jointly through their participation in international organisations.
For many years the effectiveness of the North Atlantic Alliance was evident from its success in preventing war in Europe and from its role in helping to bring to an end the artificial divisions of Europe and the hostility and antagonism of the Cold War. Today, by extending security further afield and developing cooperation beyond its traditional boundaries, and through its active role in crisis management and peace-keeping, the Alliance is continuing to demonstrate its commitment to stability and security. In Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Kosovo, it is fulfilling its obligations to defend democracy, peaceful political and economic progress and human rights, helping to shape what the Secretary General of the United Nations has called "a new international norm against the violent repression of minorities".