NATO - The Western Military Alliance Turns 60


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is the world’s most powerful military alliance. NATO was formed in 1949 to deal the Communist threat in Eastern Europe. After World War II the Soviet Union wanted to expand its influence in Europe.

NATO was, at first, made up of the United States, Canada and 10 western and southern European countries. Greece and Turkey were welcomed in 1952 and West Germany became a member in 1955. Today NATO has expanded to a total of 28 countries. NATO headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.

During the Cold War, the main enemy of NATO was the Warsaw Pact, a military organization led by the Soviet Union. It was founded in 1955 and broke apart after communism ended in the 1980s. Ten years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland became the first former communist states to join NATO in 1999. In 2004 the former Soviet republics Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also joined.



In the past NATO has witnessed tensions between member states. France left the organization in 1966 but returned in 2008. In the 70s and 80s there were arguments between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus, a divided island with a Greek and Turkish part.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 NATO was left without a real enemy. Since then, the alliance has concentrated on using its power to bring peace to regions of conflict in Europe. At the end of 1995 NATO organized a peacekeeping force in Bosnia. In 1999 the alliance carried out air strikes against Serbia to force their troops out of Kosovo. Since then 16,000 NATO troops have remained stationed in the new country.

The NATO doctrine says that an attack on one of its member states is an attack on the whole organization. NATO put this policy into use for the first time after the terrorist attacks against the USA in September 2001. Although not all NATO members wanted to help the US in the fight against terrorism, the alliance supported the US in the war in Afghanistan, a country that allowed terrorists to hide. In 2003 NATO took command of an international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. It was the first mission outside Europe.



Related Topics




  • air strike = attack against a country with airplanes and bombs
  • alliance = when two or more countries agree to help each other and work together
  • although = while
  • argument = quarrel
  • Cold War = the unfriendly relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II
  • collapse = end
  • conflict = here: areas where there fighting is going on
  • deal = to take action to solve a problem
  • divided = split into parts
  • doctrine = a system of ideas or a set of guidelines that is important for an organization
  • expand = make bigger
  • force = to make somebody do something
  • found – founded = start
  • headquarters = the main building of an organization
  • influence = power
  • Iron Curtain = the border between the free countries of western Europe and the communist countries of Eastern Europe
  • mission = military job
  • peacekeeping force = a group of soldiers that have the task of keeping two fighting groups apart
  • policy = guidelines
  • remain = stay
  • Soviet Union = the biggest Communist state; it existed between 1922 and 1991
  • support = help
  • tension = nervous feelings, problems
  • threat = danger
  • troops = soldiers
  • witness = view, see