NATO or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an intergovernmental military alliance which was established after World War II in 1949. The organization is based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on April 4, 1949. The headquarters of NATO is situated in Brussels, Belgium.
NATO is the system of collective defense. It means that countries agree to mutual defense in response to attack by any external party. From its beginning it consisted of 20 countries, which represented a common front against the nations of Warsaw Pact – the counter-alliance made “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down” (www.nato.int, 2010).
In 2009 new members of NATO were added, so there are 28 members now.
These are Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The purpose of NATO, according to the official organization’s web site, “is to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means. Collective defence is at the heart of the Alliance and creates a spirit of solidarity and cohesion among its members” (www.nato.int, 2010).
Mission of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is to protect the members’ territory, prevent crises, steady post conflict situations and support restoration. Collective defence, managing crisis situations and encouraging cooperative security are the tools which NATO uses to contribute to the peace and stability.
“Strategic concepts are… the Alliance’s objectives and the basis for the implementation of NATO policy. They provide the highest level of guidance on the political and military means to be used in achieving these goals” (www.nato.int, 2010).
The last Strategic Concept was adopted on November 19, 2010 for the next ten years.
NATO stated that the plan, “will serve as the Alliance’s roadmap for the next ten years and that reconfirms the commitment to defend one another against attack as the bedrock of Euro-Atlantic security” (www.nato.int, 2010). The key objectives of new Strategic Concept are the NATO-Russian relations, the NATO-EU relations, the missile defense and presence of the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.
NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, when talking about 2010 Strategic Concept, argued in his speech in Warsaw in March 10, 2010, that, “if we want to keep NATO’s territorial defence effective, affordable and credible, we must push ahead with the Alliance’s transformation. We need more flexible, mobile and deployable armed forces. If our military is stationary, if our armed forces can’t be moved beyond the borders of each individual member state, the defence of Allied territory will not be effective. Transformation is also about more efficient use of resources. Allies should work more closely together in acquiring key capabilities and funding operations” (www.nato.int, 2010).
Talking about NATO-Russia relationships, Secretary General said, “... I firmly believe that a much improved relationship between NATO and Russia would be the best reassurance of all, to all our nations” (www.nato.int, 2010).
The decision-making institutions in NATO are the following: The North Atlantic Council, The Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), The Military Committee, Defence Planning Committee (DPC) and Summit meetings.
One of the NATO’s fundamental security tasks is crisis management that can use military and non-military measures to respond to a threat. Non-military issues include protection of population against natural, technological or humanitarian disaster operations.
The Situation Centre (SITCEN) is responsible for political, economic and military intelligence. It is the agency that provides situational awareness in the Headquarters that works 24 hours a day.
Member states of NATO make their contribution to the expenditure on managing the organization. Some contributions come from participation in missions and operations in different countries. Participating in the operations led by NATO, the members incur the deployment costs. There are three kinds of budget that are classified as general financing plans: civilian budget, defense budget and NATO Security Investment Program.
Talking about quality tools and techniques that organization is successfully implementing, we can say that NATO for all its history implemented a lot of successful projects, concepts, operations and missions.
On October 31, 2012 NATO has ended its operation in Libya, which lasted seven month. On March 2012 Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, who had severely ruled the country for 42 years, attacked the Libyan people using his armed gangs. The UN Security Council decided to protect Libya’s civilians. It had to patrol the no-flight zone and prevent illegal transportation of arms by air and sea. At that time NATO has commenced the military operations, assuming command of the considerable forces of ships and aircrafts. Success of NATO was rapid. The Alliance saved many thousands of lives, grounded Qaddafi’s air force, and was watching Libya’s coast.
The NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said, making conclusions about Libyan operation, “operation Unified Protector is one of the most successful in NATO history. We are concluding it in a considered and controlled manner – because our military job is now done” (www.telegraph.co.uk, 2012).
Another operation that NATO successfully ended was mission in Kosovo. This operation was the major challenge of Alliance. For the first time NATO started a military campaign outside the own borders. The aim of this operation was to avoid a humanitarian tragedy. Having a lot of problems in this region, NATO prevailed.
During the 1990s NATO played an important role in stabilization of the situation in the Balkans. Collapse of the former Yugoslavia led to a series of wars. After the World War II these wars were the greatest challenge for Europe, because they threatened to escalate beyond their borders. Other problems in the Balkans were economic crises, ethnic and religious fault lines. Some of the NATO operations and concepts were not so successful and needed improvement. We can say that there were some failures in the organization history. One of them is the unmitigated failure to pacify Afghanistan. NATO didn’t have a clear plan and purpose to fight terrorism in Afghanistan.
The war in Afghanistan has lasted longer than World War II. Nothing was achieved in this military operation. The Taliban still controls large parts of territory, the nation is divided and there is a civil war in the country. The operation in Afghanistan was ill-conceived and ultimately it was the failure. For NATO, the Afghan War was a stinging reminder of its limitations.
It follows that fight against terrorism that began after September 11, 2001 was also not so successful. NATO needs more clear and consolidated action plan. The Afghan failure can bring a new wave of terror to the West.
Another operation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Bosnia also was unsuccessful. The aim of intervention of NATO in Bosnia and Herzegovina was to establish peace during and after the Bosnian War. NATO’s intervention has gradually expanded to include the large-scale air operations. Near 60,000 soldiers were attracted in Bosnian mission.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded during the Cold War as a military organization to act as a counter to the treaty between Soviet member states of the Warsaw Pact.
During the period of its existence, NATO has transformed from the military unit to the military-political organization. NATO’s purpose after the fall of the Soviet Union has changed. Today NATO is very active and leading contributor to peace and security on the international stage. Nearly 138,000 military personnel are engaged in NATO missions around the world. NATO has participated in missions that cover the full spectrum of crisis management operations. These are the combat and peacekeeping missions, training and logistics support, the surveillance and humanitarian relief. The tools that NATO uses are the collective defence, managing crisis situations and encouraging cooperative security. The NATO’s objectives are reflected in the strategic concepts.
Today Alliance supports peace in all hot spots of the world. NATO’s forces are operating in the Mediterranean, Kosovo, Afghanistan and in some African countries.