200px-NATO flag svg

The flag of NATO.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, is a military alliance of 28 largely capitalist nations. Although NATO was originally formed for the stated purpose of preventing fascism from resurfacing in Germany, its membership has included fascist governments[citation needed] such as Portugal under António de Oliveira Salazar, as well as the West German government. This and other factors have caused many to consider NATO an anti-communist alliance, dedicated to opposing the former Soviet Union. If so, NATO’s existence would be a breach of the Anglo-Soviet and Franco-Soviet alliances[1]. In recent years NATO has claimed to be redefining its purpose as one to defend against religious terrorism, particularly in the Middle East. To this end, NATO has been courting Russia as an ally[2]. This was, however, put into doubt by the discovery of a NATO plan for war against Russia over the Baltic States and Poland[3].

NATO countries are heavily militarized, together accounting for nearly three-quarters of the world's military spending[4].


NATO was formed in 1949 as an alliance of twelve capitalist nations, ostensibly directed against any revival of fascism in Germany. However, in practice NATO was used (until 1989) primarily as an organization to enable the Western powers to wage the Cold War against the Soviet Union[5]. In 1952, Greece and Turkey joined NATO, followed by the West German government in 1955.

In 1955, the Warsaw Pact was signed to counter the aggression of NATO[citation needed], thus formalizing the East-West divide.

NATO withdrew nuclear forces from Turkey in 1962, in exchange for the withdrawal of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba[citation needed].

The NATO alliance was severely weakened in 1966, when French President Charles de Gaulle withdrew the French military from the NATO command structure in protest over American domination of the alliance[6]. Greece followed the French in 1974, due to a war with Turkey, another NATO member.


The ruins of Afghan's Capital, Kabul, in 2004.

During the Cold War, NATO never actually deployed soldiers to a war zone, for fear of Soviet retaliation. However, in 1995 and 1999 NATO countries used indiscriminate bombing against civilians in Serbia and civilian Serbians in Bosnia[7].

Similarly, in 2001 NATO was used for (illegal[8]) military action against Afghanistan, which is ongoing. The coalition forces have since killed about 28,500 civilians from coalition forces, as of 2009[9][10][11].

In recent years a major priority of NATO has been the creation of a missile defence shield. This has been viewed with suspicion by Russia[12]; however, in 2010 NATO and Russia agreed to cooperate to build a missile defence shield directed against Iran[13]. The discovery of NATO war plans directed against Russia has placed this in doubt[14].


NATO is controlled by two main assemblies. One is split between 257 delegates from the 28 members. Such delegates are split unevenly between the member states, with the U.S. having the most delegates[15]. The other is a council of representatives appointed by the 28 members, called the North Atlantic Council.

NATO military forces are placed under a unified command. This command is often considered to be under American domination, so some NATO countries have boycotted it at times[16].


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