NATO was created on 4 April 1949 with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington.

When talking about its history, it is necessary to go back to 1945. After the end of the Second World War Western European countries mainly faced the need for economic reconstruction. The political and ideological background of this process was alerting. Both Western European countries and their North American allies were concerned with the expansionist policies and methods of the USSR. While the West did their best to reduce their defence establishments and to demobilize forces, the Soviet leadership intended to maintain its own military forces at full strength. There were even other signals that led to fears. United Nations Charter and respect for the international settlements reached at the end of the war would not guarantee the national sovereignty or independence of democratic states. There was a threat of outside aggression or internal subversion.

More over in many Central and Eastern European countries undemocratic forms of government were imposed (e.g. 1948 coup in Czechoslovakia), effective opposition, human and civic rights were repressed. Between 1947 and 1949 another series of dramatic political events escalated the problem (e.g. direct threats to the sovereignty of Norway, Greece, Turkey and other Western European countries, the illegal blockade of Berlin).

To cope with the situation Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom signed the Brussels Treaty in March 1948 to develop a common defence system and to strengthen the ties between them. That should enable them to resist ideological, political and military threats to their security. Negotiations with the United States and Canada then followed on the creation of a single North Atlantic Alliance based on security guarantees and mutual commitments between Europe and North America. Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway and Portugal were invited by the Brussels Treaty powers to become participants in this process. These negotiations culminated in the signature of the Treaty of Washington in April 1949. That created a common security system based on a partnership among these 12 countries. The juridical basis for further NATO’s enlargement is embodied in Article 10 of the Treaty, which states that “The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty” [1] .

Greece and Turkey became its members in 1952. The Federal Republic of Germany joined the Alliance in 1955, Spain in 1982. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland acceded NATO in 1999.

At the Prague summit (November 2002) NATO extended invitations to Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia and all these became member countries in March 2004 , which means that NATO now includes 26 member countries.

NATO is based on a Treaty between member states that enter it freely after public debate and due parliamentary process. The Treaty promotes both their individual rights and their international obligations in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. On the other hand it commits each member country to sharing the risks and responsibilities as well as the benefits of collective security. NATO countries cannot enter into any other international commitment that might conflict with the Treaty. Between the signature of the Treaty of Washington in April 1949 and the present day, more than half a century of history has taken place. The central focus of NATO for most of that time was providing for the immediate defence and security of its member countries. Today this remains its core task (but its immediate focus has undergone fundamental change).


[1] The North Atlantic Treaty, Article 10, in NATO Handbook, p. 529, NATO 2001
Sửa lần cuối: Friday, 4 February 2011, 1:32 PM