Collective defence: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949 and is a group of 31 countries from Europe and North America that exists to protect the people and territory of its members. The Alliance is founded on the principle of collective defence, meaning that if one NATO Ally is attacked, then all NATO Allies are attacked. For example, when terrorists attacked the United States on 9/11 2001, all NATO Allies stood with America as though they had also been attacked.
Fighting Terrorism: NATO plays an important role in fighting terrorism. Through NATO Mission Iraq, we are advising and assisting Iraqi security forces and institutions to stabilise their country, fight terrorism and prevent the return of Daesh. NATO is also a full member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and our AWACS surveillance aircraft have played an important supporting role. For nearly 20 years, NATO helped to ensure Afghanistan did not become a safe haven for international terrorists. In Naples, NATO has set up a ‘Hub for the South’ to help Allies tackle the threat of terrorism.
Support for Ukraine: NATO stands in full solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they defend their country against Russia’s war of aggression. Our members are providing unprecedented support to help Ukraine uphold its right to self-defence, which is enshrined in the UN Charter. As an organisation, NATO is providing non-lethal support including fuel, winter clothing and generators. Over the longer-term, we will support Ukraine to transition from Soviet-era military equipment to modern NATO equipment, boost interoperability and further strengthen its defence institutions.
Working with partners: Because threats and challenges like terrorism, migration, climate change and cyber-attacks know no borders, NATO is committed to cooperation with its global partners. We work with over 40 partner countries around the world, as well as organisations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the African Union, to spread stability and security.
Troops and Equipment: Whenever NATO carries out a mission, our members commit troops and equipment to be placed under NATO command. These become known as “NATO forces.” The only military equipment that NATO owns is a fleet of AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control) surveillance aircraft and several Global Hawk surveillance drones.
NATO's Command Structure: With many different militaries working together, having a clear chain of command is vital. Military and civilian personnel from all member states work together every day within NATO’s ‘Command Structure.’ This includes two top-level Strategic Commands: Allied Command Operations, based in Mons, Belgium; and Allied Command Transformation, based in Norfolk in the United States. Our commands enable us to run our missions, train our forces and act in a crisis.
Defence Spending: At the Wales Summit in 2014, NATO Allies pledged to invest more and better in defence – to stop the cuts, move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence by 2024, and to spend 20% of that on major equipment. We are making progress. Since then, European Allies and Canada have spent 350 billion US dollars more on defence. This money goes into improving Allied armed forces that keep our countries safe.
NATO funding: Every NATO country contributes to the costs of running the Alliance, based on a cost-share formula derived from Gross National Income. This covers the costs of NATO’s operations and missions, facilities, Command Structure and jointly-owned equipment, like its surveillance drones. NATO’s common funding amounts to approximately three billion euros annually, or around 0.3% of total Allied defence spending.
Joining NATO: The Open Door Policy is a founding principle of NATO. This means that any country in Europe is free to join NATO if it is prepared to meet the standards and obligations of membership, contributes to the security of the Alliance, and shares NATO's values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Since 1949, NATO's membership has grown from 12 to 31 countries. In April 2023, we welcomed Finland as our 31st member.
Cyber Defence: Cyber-attacks are becoming more common, sophisticated and damaging, making cyber defence a top priority for NATO. In fact, NATO recognises cyberspace as an ‘operational domain’ – just as land, sea, air, or space. NATO helps Allies to boost their cyber defences by sharing information about threats, investing in education and training, and through exercises. NATO also has cyber defence experts that can be sent to help Allies under attack.