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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); French: Organisation du Traité de l'Atlantique Nord (OTAN); (also called the North Atlantic Alliance, the Atlantic Alliance, or the Western Alliance) is a military alliance established by the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on 4 April 1949. Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, the organization constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.

Member nations[]


There were 12 founding nations on April 4, 1949: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France[1], Iceland[2], Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom, United States.


  • February 18, 1952: Greece[3], Turkey.
  • May 9, 1955: West Germany.
  • May 30, 1980: Spain.
  • March 12, 1990: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland; admission of these nations not compatible with Twilight 2000 timeline.
  • March 29, 2004: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia; admission of these nations not compatible with Twilight 2000 timeline.

Military structure[]

Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) is the central command headquarters for NATO operational forces in the European theatre. The Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) is always a US four star general. The SACEUR in 1996 was General George Joulwan [4].


Allied Forces Northern Europe (AFNORTH) has its headquarters at Kolsaas, Norway. AFNORTH comprises Allied Forces North Norway (AFNON), Allied Forces South Norway (AFSONOR), and Allied Forces Baltic Approaches (BALTAP).


Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT) has its headquarters at Brunssum, Netherlands. AFCENT comrpises Northern Army Group (NORTHAG), Central Army Group (CENTAG), and Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE). The Commander-in-Chief AFCENT in 1996 was Bundeswehr Lieutenant General Dieter Stöckmann [5].


Allied Forces Southern Europe (AFSOUTH) has its headquarters at Naples, Italy. AFSOUTH comprises Allied Land Forces Southern Europe (LANDSOUTH), Allied Land Forces Southeastern Europe (LANDSOUTHEAST), Allied Air Forces Southern Europe (AAFSE), and Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe (NAVSOUTH). The Commander-in-Chief South (CINCSOUTH) in 1996 was Admiral Admiral T. Joseph Lopez [6].

The NATO Response Force[]

The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a "coherent, high readiness, joint, multinational force package" of approximately 25,000 troops that is "technologically advanced, flexible, deployable, interoperable and sustainable". Its role is to act as a stand alone military force available for rapid deployment by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as a collective defense, crisis management or stabilisation force, or to act as an initial entry force for a subsequent primary deployment. The NRF consists of land, air and sea components provided by NATO members. Contributed forces first train together and then become available for a 6-month period before being replaced by the new force.

The purpose of the NRF concept is to provide NATO with a robust and credible high readiness capability, which is fully trained and certified as a joint and combined armed force, able to deploy quickly to participate in the full spectrum of NATO missions wherever required. The concept of NRF was first endorsed with a declaration of NATO's Heads of State at the Prague Summit on 22 November 2002 and was fully developed by October 2006. It succeeded a similar plan, the IRTF(L), Immediate Reaction Task Force (Land).

The first elements of the NRF are able to deploy within five days, with the rest of the force capable of operating self-sufficiently for a period of 30 days. Depending on mission requirements, the NRF will operate either as an Initial Entry Force to facilitate the arrival of Follow-on-Forces, or as a Stand-alone Force. Within the full spectrum of NATO missions, the NRF may conduct the following types of missions:

  • Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations
  • Counter Terrorism Operations
  • Embargo Operations
  • Quick Response Operations to support diplomacy as required.

Notes and references[]

  1. France withdrew from the integrated military command in 1956, but remained an independent member of NATO.
  2. Iceland has no standing army, but delegates military responsiblity to its coast guard and its national police force.
  3. Greece withdrew from the integrated military command from 1974 to 1980 as a protest against the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus
  4. retrieved 2008-12-10
  5. retreived 2008-12-10
  6. retreived 2008-12-10
Also take a look at our page Warsaw Pact.