“The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments.
They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area.
They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security. They therefore agree to this North Atlantic Treaty:”
On April 4, 1949, with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, DC by the original 12 members, NATO came into being. Sixteen additional members have signed the treaty since NATO’s inception. Interestingly enough, the original, very short, treaty has never been modified, and the original 14 Articles still stand. The founding treaty can be found here.
Born in the Cold War as a counterweight against the Soviet Union, it continue to expand after the fall of the Soviet government, and now includes several former Soviet states. With the threat of Soviet expansion diminished, NATO has focused its resources on combating terrorism, piracy, and providing support to international peacekeeping efforts in actions impacting the member nations.
The founding members in 1949 were: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the United States. The membership has grown over the years to include: Greece, Turkey, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, and Croatia.
Although the United States’ current posturing regarding NATO indicates a desire to withdraw, I personally suspect that we will not – the world is much smaller than the current administration would like to think, and we would be foolish to forget that the only time Article 5 – an attack on one is an attack on all – was ‘activated’ was after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Image borrowed from http://www.nato.int