Maybe you have heard this acronym on the news or read it in an article, but do you know what it is or what it stands for? If you don’t know then you are reading the right article. NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. According to the NATO website, “NATO is an alliance of countries from Europe and North America. It provides a unique link between these two continents, enabling them to consult and cooperate in the field of defense and security, and conduct multinational crisis-management operations together.”


What is the purpose of NATO? “NATO’s purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means”, that is directly from the NATO website. However, what does this mean? This means that this group of countries have vowed to ban together to encourage peaceful resolutions of issues that occur in the world. Issues such as the Cold War, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and 9/11.


NATO has 29 countries that are members, in addition NATO also has partnerships with other countries who are not official members. Partner countries do not hold the same voting/decision making powers. Now, what does it mean to be a member? There are minimum requirements for each member to uphold, according to the US Department of State’s site these are the minimum requirements for NATO:

  • New members must uphold democracy, including tolerating diversity.
  • New members must be making progress toward a market economy.
  • Their military forces must be under firm civilian control.
    They must be good neighbors and respect sovereignty outside their borders.
  • They must be working toward compatibility with NATO forces.


The military aspect of NATO is one of the biggest areas of interest, it’s more than a bunch of unified military forces. According to the NATO website the Military sector of NATO is focused on: “NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. If diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military power to undertake crisis-management operations. These are carried out under the collective defense clause of NATO’s founding treaty – Article 5 of the Washington Treaty or under a United Nations mandate, alone or in cooperation with other countries and international organizations.” Before NATO will deploy military forces, crises and conflicts must undergo a process that deems military force justifiable. The website best sums up these highlights of the military aspect of NATO:

  • Crisis management is one of NATO’s core tasks for which it employs an appropriate mix of political and military tools to manage crises in an increasingly complex security environment.
  • NATO’s robust crisis management capabilities allow it to deal with a wide range of crises which could pose a threat to the security of the Alliance’s territory and populations. These crises can be political, military or humanitarian and can also arise from a natural disaster or as a consequence of technological disruptions.
  • NATO provides the framework within which members can work and train together in order to plan and conduct multinational crisis management operations, often at short notice.
  • It can also train and operate with other actors where appropriate, for combined crisis management operations and missions.
  • Allies decide whether to engage in a crisis management operation on a case-by-case basis and by consensus.
  • NATO recognizes that the military alone cannot resolve a crisis or conflict, and lessons learned from previous operations make it clear that a comprehensive political, civilian and military approach is necessary for effective crisis management.
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