International military alliance created to defend western Europe against a possible Soviet invasion. A 1948 collective-defense alliance between Britain, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg was recognized as inadequate to deter Soviet aggression, and in 1949 the U.S. and Canada agreed to join their European allies in an enlarged alliance. A centralized administrative structure was set up, and three major commands were established, focused on Europe, the Atlantic, and the English Channel (disbanded in 1994). The admission of West Germany in 1955 led to the Soviet Union's creation of the opposing Warsaw Treaty Organization, or Warsaw Pact. France withdrew from military participation in 1966. Since NATO ground forces were smaller than those of the Warsaw Pact, the balance of power was maintained by superior weaponry, including intermediate-range nuclear weapons. After the Warsaw Pact's dissolution and the end of the Cold War in 1991, NATO withdrew its nuclear weapons and attempted to transform its mission. It involved itself in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty stated that an attack on one signatory would be regarded as an attack on the rest. This article was first invoked in 2001 in response to the terrorist September 11 attacks against the U.S. Additional countries joined NATO in 1999 and 2004 to bring the number of full members to 26. In 2009 France announced its plan to rejoin NATO's integrated military command.
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| language = English
French | leader_title = Secretary General | leader_name = Jaap de Hoop Scheffer | leader_title2 = Chairman of the Military Committee | leader_name2 = Giampaolo Di Paola | formation = 4 April 1949 | website =
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Organisation du Traité de l'Atlantique Nord (OTAN), also called the (North) Atlantic Alliance, is a military alliance established by the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on 4 April 1949. The NATO headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium, and the organization constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.
For its first few years, NATO was not much more than a political association. However, the Korean War galvanized the member states, and an integrated military structure was built up under the direction of two U.S. supreme commanders. The first NATO Secretary General Lord Ismay famously stated the organization's goal was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down". Throughout the Cold War doubts over the strength of the relationship between the European states and the United States ebbed and flowed, along with doubts over the credibility of the NATO defence against a prospective Soviet invasion - doubts that led to the development of the independent French nuclear deterrent and the withdrawal of the French from NATO's military structure from 1966.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the organization became drawn into the Balkans while building better links with former potential enemies to the east, which culminated with several former Warsaw Pact states joining the alliance in 1999 and 2004. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, NATO has attempted to refocus itself to new challenges and has deployed troops to Afghanistan and trainers to Iraq.
The Berlin Plus agreement is a comprehensive package of agreements made between NATO and the EU on 16 December 2002. With this agreement the EU is given the possibility to use NATO assets in case it wanted to act independently in an international crisis, on the condition that NATO does not want to act itself – the so-called "right of first refusal". Only if NATO refuses to act, the EU may act if it wants to do so. The combined military spending of all NATO members constitutes over 70% of the world's defence spending, with the United States alone accounting for about half the total military spending of all the countries of the world combined.
These talks resulted in the North Atlantic Treaty, which was signed in Washington, D.C. on 4 April 1949. It included the five Treaty of Brussels states, as well as the United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Support for the Treaty was not unanimous; Iceland suffered an anti-NATO riot in March 1949 which may have been Communist-inspired. Three years later, on 18 February 1952, Greece and Turkey also joined.
The Parties of NATO agreed that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all. Consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense will assist the Party or Parties being attacked, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
Such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force does not necessarily mean that other member states will respond with military action against the aggressor(s). Rather they are obliged to respond, but maintain the freedom to choose how they will respond. This differs from Article IV of the Treaty of Brussels (which founded the Western European Union) which clearly states that the response must include military action. It is however often assumed that NATO members will aid the attacked member militarily. Further, the article limits the organization's scope to Europe and North America, which explains why the invasion of the British Falkland Islands did not result in NATO involvement.
The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 was crucial for NATO as it raised the apparent threat level greatly (all Communist countries were suspected of working together) and forced the alliance to develop concrete military plans. The 1952 Lisbon conference, seeking to provide the forces necessary for NATO's Long-Term Defence Plan, called for an expansion to 96 divisions. However this requirement was dropped the following year to roughly 35 divisions with heavier use to be made of nuclear weapons. At this time, NATO could call on about fifteen ready divisions in Central Europe, and another ten in Italy and Scandinavia. Also at Lisbon, the post of Secretary General of NATO as the organization's chief civilian was also created, and Baron Hastings Ismay eventually appointed to the post. Later, in September 1952, the first major NATO maritime exercises began; Operation Mainbrace brought together 200 ships and over 50,000 personnel to practice the defence of Denmark and Norway.
Greece and Turkey joined the alliance the same year, forcing a series of controversial negotiations, in which the United States and Britain were the primary disputants, over how to bring the two countries into the military command structure. Meanwhile, while this overt military preparation was going on, covert stay-behind arrangements to continue resistance after a successful Soviet invasion ('Operation Gladio'), initially made by the Western European Union, were being transferred to NATO control. Ultimately unofficial bonds began to grow between NATO's armed forces, such as the NATO Tiger Association and competitions such as the Canadian Army Trophy for tank gunnery.
In 1954, the Soviet Union suggested that it should join NATO to preserve peace in Europe. The NATO countries, fearing that the Soviet Union's motive was to weaken the alliance, ultimately rejected this proposal.
The incorporation of West Germany into the organization on 9 May 1955 was described as "a decisive turning point in the history of our continent" by Halvard Lange, Foreign Minister of Norway at the time. A major reason for Germany's entry into the alliance was that without German manpower, it would have been impossible to field enough conventional forces to resist a Soviet invasion. Indeed, one of its immediate results was the creation of the Warsaw Pact, signed on 14 May 1955 by the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and East Germany, as a formal response to this event, thereby delineating the two opposing sides of the Cold War.
The unity of NATO was breached early on in its history, with a crisis occurring during Charles de Gaulle's presidency of France from 1958 onward. De Gaulle protested the United States' strong role in the organization and what he perceived as a special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. In a memorandum sent to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on 17 September 1958, he argued for the creation of a tripartite directorate that would put France on an equal footing with the United States and the United Kingdom, and also for the expansion of NATO's coverage to include geographical areas of interest to France, most notably Algeria, where France was waging a counter-insurgency and sought NATO assistance.
Considering the response given to be unsatisfactory, and in order to give France, in the event of a East German incursion into West Germany, the option of coming to a separate peace with the Eastern bloc instead of being drawn into a NATO-Warsaw Pact global war, de Gaulle began to build an independent defence for his country. On 11 March 1959, France withdrew its Mediterranean fleet from NATO command; three months later, in June 1959, de Gaulle banned the stationing of foreign nuclear weapons on French soil. This caused the United States to transfer two hundred military aircraft out of France and return control of the ten major air force bases that had operated in France since 1950 to the French by 1967.
Though France showed solidarity with the rest of NATO during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, de Gaulle continued his pursuit of an independent defence by removing France's Atlantic and Channel fleets from NATO command. In 1966, all French armed forces were removed from NATO's integrated military command, and all non-French NATO troops were asked to leave France. This withdrawal forced the relocation of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) from Paris to Casteau, north of Mons, Belgium, by 16 October 1967. France remained a member of the alliance, and committed to the defence of Europe from possible Communist attack with its own forces stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany throughout the Cold War.
The creation of NATO brought about some standardisation of allied military terminology, procedures, and technology, which in many cases meant European countries adopting U.S. practices. The roughly 1300 Standardization Agreements (STANAGs) codifies the standardisation that NATO has achieved. Hence, the 7.62×51 NATO rifle cartridge was introduced in the 1950s as a standard firearm cartridge among many NATO countries. Fabrique Nationale's FAL became the most popular 7.62 NATO rifle in Europe and served into the early 1990s. Also, aircraft marshalling signals were standardized, so that any NATO aircraft could land at any NATO base. Other standards such as the NATO phonetic alphabet have made their way beyond NATO into civilian use.
On 30 May 1978, NATO countries officially defined two complementary aims of the Alliance, to maintain security and pursue détente. This was supposed to mean matching defences at the level rendered necessary by the Warsaw Pact's offensive capabilities without spurring a further arms race.
On 12 December 1979, in light of a build-up of Warsaw Pact nuclear capabilities in Europe, ministers approved the deployment of U.S. GLCM cruise missiles and Pershing II theatre nuclear weapons in Europe. The new warheads were also meant to strengthen the western negotiating position in regard to nuclear disarmament. This policy was called the Dual Track policy. Similarly, in 1983–84, responding to the stationing of Warsaw Pact SS-20 medium-range missiles in Europe, NATO deployed modern Pershing II missiles tasked to hit military targets such as tank formations in the event of war. This action led to peace movement protests throughout Western Europe.
The membership of the organization in this time period likewise remained largely static. In 1974, as a consequence of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Greece withdrew its forces from NATO's military command structure, but, with Turkish cooperation, were readmitted in 1980. On 30 May 1982, NATO gained a new member when, following a referendum, the newly democratic Spain joined the alliance.
In November 1984, NATO manoeuvres simulating a nuclear launch caused panic in the Kremlin. The Soviet leadership, led by ailing General Secretary Yuri Andropov, became concerned that the manoeuvres, codenamed Able Archer 83, were the beginnings of a genuine first strike. In response, Soviet nuclear forces were readied and air units in East Germany and Poland were placed on alert. Though at the time written off by U.S. intelligence as a propaganda effort, many historians now believe that the Soviet fear of a NATO first strike was genuine.
The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 removed the de facto main adversary of NATO. This caused a strategic re-evaluation of NATO's purpose, nature and tasks. In practice this ended up entailing a gradual (and still ongoing) expansion of NATO to Eastern Europe, as well as the extension of its activities to areas that had not formerly been NATO concerns. The first post-Cold War expansion of NATO came with the reunification of Germany on 3 October 1990, when the former East Germany became part of the Federal Republic of Germany and the alliance. This had been agreed in the Two Plus Four Treaty earlier in the year. To secure Soviet approval of a united Germany remaining in NATO, it was agreed that foreign troops and nuclear weapons would not be stationed in the east.
The scholar Stephen F. Cohen argued in 2005 that a commitment was given that NATO would never expand further east, but according to Robert B. Zoellick, then a State Department official involved in the Two Plus Four negotiating process, this appears to be a misperception; no formal commitment of the sort was made. On May 7, 2008, The Daily Telegraph held an interview with Gorbachev in which he repeated his view that such a commitment had been made. Gorbachev said "the Americans promised that NATO wouldn't move beyond the boundaries of Germany after the Cold War but now half of central and eastern Europe are members, so what happened to their promises? It shows they cannot be trusted."
As part of post-Cold War restructuring, NATO's military structure was cut back and reorganized, with new forces such as the Headquarters Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps established. The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe agreed between NATO and the Warsaw Pact and signed in Paris in 1990, mandated specific reductions. The changes brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union on the military balance in Europe were recognized in the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, signed some years later. France rejoined NATO's Military Committee in 1995, and since that time has intensified working relations with the military structure. France did not, however, rejoin the integrated military command and no non-French NATO troops are allowed to be based on its soil. The policies of current French President Nicolas Sarkozy have resulted in a major reform of France's military position, culminating in a pledge in June 2008 to rejoin the military command of NATO while maintaining an independent nuclear deterrent.
The first NATO military operation caused by the conflict in the former Yugoslavia was Operation Sharp Guard, which ran from June 1993–October 1996. It provided maritime enforcement of the arms embargo and economic sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On 28 February 1994, NATO took its first military action, shooting down four Bosnian Serb aircraft violating a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone over central Bosnia and Herzegovina. Operation Deny Flight, the no-fly-zone enforcement mission, had begun a year before, on 12 April 1993, and was to continue until 20 December 1995. NATO air strikes that year helped bring the war in Bosnia to an end, resulting in the Dayton Agreement, which in turn meant that NATO deployed a peacekeeping force, under Operation Joint Endeavor, first named IFOR and then SFOR, which ran from December 1996 to December 2004. Following the lead of its member nations, NATO began to award a service medal, the NATO Medal, for these operations.
Between 1994 and 1997, wider forums for regional cooperation between NATO and its neighbours were set up, like the Partnership for Peace, the Mediterranean Dialogue initiative and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. On 8 July 1997, three former communist countries, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland, were invited to join NATO, which finally happened in 1999. In 1998, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council was established.
A NATO bombing campaign, Operation Deliberate Force, began in August, 1995, against the Army of Republika Srpska, after the Srebrenica massacre. On 24 March 1999, NATO saw its first broad-scale military engagement in the Kosovo War, where it waged an 11-week bombing campaign, which NATO called Operation Allied Force, against what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in an effort to stop Serbian-led crackdown on Kosovo Liberation Army. A formal declaration of war never took place (in common with all wars since World War II). The conflict ended on 11 June 1999, when Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milošević agreed to NATO’s demands by accepting UN resolution 1244. During the crisis, NATO also deployed one of its international reaction forces, the ACE Mobile Force (Land), to Albania as the Albania Force (AFOR), to deliver humanitarian aid to refugees from Kosovo. NATO then helped establish the KFOR, a NATO-led force under a United Nations mandate that operated the military mission in Kosovo. In August–September 2001, the alliance also mounted Operation Essential Harvest, a mission disarming ethnic Albanian militias in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
The United States, the United Kingdom, and most other NATO countries opposed efforts to require the U.N. Security Council to approve NATO military strikes, such as the action against Serbia in 1999, while France and some others claimed that the alliance needed U.N. approval. The U.S./U.K. side claimed that this would undermine the authority of the alliance, and they noted that Russia and China would have exercised their Security Council vetoes to block the strike on Yugoslavia, and could do the same in future conflicts where NATO intervention was required, thus nullifying the entire potency and purpose of the organization.
The September 11 attacks caused NATO to invoke Article 5 of the NATO Charter for the first time in its history. The Article says that an attack on any member shall be considered to be an attack on all. The invocation was confirmed on 4 October 2001 when NATO determined that the attacks were indeed eligible under the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty. The eight official actions taken by NATO in response to the attacks included : Operation Eagle Assist and Operation Active Endeavour. Operation Active Endeavour is a naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea and is designed to prevent the movement of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction as well as to enhance the security of shipping in general. It began on October 4, 2001.
Despite this early show of solidarity, NATO faced a crisis little more than a year later, when on 10 February 2003, France and Belgium vetoed the procedure of silent approval concerning the timing of protective measures for Turkey in case of a possible war with Iraq. Germany did not use its right to break the procedure but said it supported the veto.
On the issue of Afghanistan on the other hand, the alliance showed greater unity: On 16 April 2003 NATO agreed to take command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The decision came at the request of Germany and the Netherlands, the two nations leading ISAF at the time of the agreement, and all 19 NATO ambassadors approved it unanimously. The handover of control to NATO took place on 11 August, and marked the first time in NATO’s history that it took charge of a mission outside the north Atlantic area. Canada had originally been slated to take over ISAF by itself on that date.
In January 2004, NATO appointed Minister Hikmet Çetin, of Turkey, as the Senior Civilian Representative (SCR) in Afghanistan. Minister Cetin is primarily responsible for advancing the political-military aspects of the Alliance in Afghanistan. In August 2004, following U.S. pressure, NATO formed the NATO Training Mission - Iraq, a training mission to assist the Iraqi security forces in conjunction with the U.S. led MNF-I.
On 31 July 2006, a NATO-led force, made up mostly of troops from Canada, the United Kingdom, Turkey and the Netherlands, took over military operations in the south of Afghanistan from a U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition.
New NATO structures were also formed while old ones were abolished: The NATO Response Force (NRF) was launched at the 2002 Prague Summit on 21 November. On 19 June 2003, a major restructuring of the NATO military commands began as the Headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic were abolished and a new command, Allied Command Transformation (ACT), was established in Norfolk, Virginia, USA, and the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) became the Headquarters of Allied Command Operations (ACO). ACT is responsible for driving transformation (future capabilities) in NATO, whilst ACO is responsible for current operations.
Membership went on expanding with the accession of seven more Northern European and Eastern European countries to NATO: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and also Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. They were first invited to start talks of membership during the 2002 Prague Summit, and joined NATO on 29 March 2004, shortly before the 2004 Istanbul Summit. The same month, NATO's Baltic Air Policing began, which supported the sovereignty of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia by providing fighters to react to any unwanted aerial intrusions. Four fighters are based in Lithuania, provided in rotation by virtually all the NATO states. Operation Peaceful Summit temporarily enhanced this patrolling during the 2006 Riga Summit.
The 2006 NATO summit was held in Riga, Latvia, which had joined the Atlantic Alliance two years earlier. It is the first NATO summit to be held in a country that was part of the Soviet Union, and the second one in a former COMECON country (after the 2002 Prague Summit). Energy Security was one of the main themes of the Riga Summit.
At the April 2008 summit in Bucharest, Romania, NATO agreed to the accession of Croatia and Albania and invited them to join. Ukraine and Georgia were also told that they will eventually become members (see Enlargement of NATO).
In April 2007, NATO's European allies called for a NATO missile defense system which would complement the American National Missile Defense system to protect Europe from missile attacks and NATO's decision-making North Atlantic Council held consultations on missile defense in the first meeting on the topic at such a senior level.
In response, the then Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed that such a deployment could lead to a new arms race and could enhance the likelihood of mutual destruction. He also suggested that his country would freeze its compliance with the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE)—which limits military deployments across the continent—until all NATO countries had ratified the adapted CFE treaty.
Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer claimed the system would not affect strategic balance or threaten Russia, as the plan is to base only 10 interceptor missiles in Poland with an associated radar in the Czech Republic.
On July 14, 2007, Russia gave notice of its intention to suspend the CFE treaty, effective 150 days later. On 14 August 2008, the United States and Poland came to an agreement to place 10 missile interceptor bases with MIM-104 Patriot defense systems in Poland. This came at a time when tension was high between Russia and most of NATO and resulted in a nuclear threat on Poland by Russia if the building of the missile defenses went ahead. On August 20th, 2008 the United States and Poland signed the agreement, with a statement from Russia saying their response "Will Go Beyond Diplomacy" and is a "extremely dangerous bundle" of military projects." Also, on August 20, 2008, Russia sent word to Norway that it was suspending ties with NATO.
NATO has added new members six times since first forming in 1949. NATO comprises twenty-six members: Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
At the NATO summit in Bucharest (April 2008) Albania and Croatia were officially invited to start accession talks with the alliance, and signed the accession protocols on July 9, 2008. The invitation of Republic of Macedonia was blocked at the same meeting pending the resolution of the Macedonia naming dispute.
In addition to the above listed members, Republic of Macedonia, was under consideration to enter NATO in 2009 but was not agreed upon. Macedonia is likely to enter the alliance at some point, with Jane's Defence Weekly commenting on 16 April 2008 that resolution to the naming issue that is holding up entry is 'likely by the end of this year  and no later than the 2009 summit.' At the same 2008 summit in Bucharest, the communique explicitly said that Georgia and Ukraine 'will become members of NATO.'
Other potential candidate countries include Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Other possible, long neutral countries that might become members are Finland and Sweden. Russia, as referred to above, continues to oppose further expansion, seeing it as inconsistent with understandings between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H. W. Bush that allowed for a peaceful unification of Germany. NATO's expansion policy is seen by Moscow as a continuation of a Cold War attempt to surround and isolate Russia.
A double framework has been established to help further co-operation between the 26 NATO members and 24 "partner countries".
The 24 partner countries are the following:
Currently IPAPs are in implementation with the following countries:
The Allies established a set of general guidelines on relations with other countries, beyond the above groupings in 1998. The guidelines do not allow for a formal institutionalisation of relations, but reflect the Allies’ desire to increase cooperation. Following extensive debate, the term Contact Countries was agreed by the Allies in 2004. Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan currently have this status.
The NATO website divides the internal NATO organization into political structures, military structures, and agencies & organizations immediately subordinate to NATO headquarters. The main headquarters of NATO is located on Boulevard Léopold III, B-1110 Brussels, which is in Haren, part of the City of Brussels municipality. A new headquarters building is currently in construction nearby, due for completion in 2012.
Like any alliance, NATO is ultimately governed by its 26 member states. However, the North Atlantic Treaty, and other agreements, outline how decisions are to be made within NATO. Each of the 26 members sends a delegation or mission to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The senior permanent member of each delegation is known as the Permanent Representative and is generally a senior civil servant or an experienced ambassador (and holding that diplomatic rank).
Together the Permanent Members form the North Atlantic Council (NAC), a body which meets together at least once a week and has effective political authority and powers of decision in NATO. From time to time the Council also meets at higher levels involving Foreign Ministers, Defence Ministers or Heads of State or Government (HOSG) and it is at these meetings that major decisions regarding NATO’s policies are generally taken. However, it is worth noting that the Council has the same authority and powers of decision-making, and its decisions have the same status and validity, at whatever level it meets. NATO summits also form a further venue for decisions on complex issues, such as enlargement.
The meetings of the North Atlantic Council are chaired by the Secretary General of NATO and, when decisions have to be made, action is agreed upon on the basis of unanimity and common accord. There is no voting or decision by majority. Each nation represented at the Council table or on any of its subordinate committees retains complete sovereignty and responsibility for its own decisions.
Subordinate to the political structure are the International Staff and International Military Staff, which administer NATO programmes and carry out high-level political, military, and also civil emergency planning.
|1||General Lord Ismay||4 April 1952–16 May 1957|
|2||Paul-Henri Spaak||16 May 1957–21 April 1961|
|3||Dirk Stikker||21 April 1961–1 August 1964|
|4||Manlio Brosio||1 August 1964–1 October 1971|
|5||Joseph Luns||1 October 1971–25 June 1984|
|6||Lord Carrington||25 June 1984–1 July 1988|
|7||Manfred Wörner||1 July 1988–13 August 1994|
|8||Sergio Balanzino||13 August 1994–17 October 1994|
|9||Willy Claes||17 October 1994–20 October 1995|
|10||Sergio Balanzino||20 October 1995–5 December 1995|
|11||Javier Solana||5 December 1995–6 October 1999|
|12||Lord Robertson of Port Ellen||14 October 1999–1 January 2004|
|13||Jaap de Hoop Scheffer||1 January 2004–present|
|2||Alessandro Minuto Rizzo||2001–present|
NATO's military operations are directed by the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, and split into two Strategic Commands both commanded by a senior US officer assisted by a staff drawn from across NATO. The Strategic Commanders are responsible to the Military Committee for the overall direction and conduct of all Alliance military matters within their areas of command.
Before 2003 the Strategic Commanders were the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT) but the current arrangement is to separate command responsibility between Allied Command Transformation (ACT), responsible for transformation and training of NATO forces, and Allied Command Operations, responsible for NATO operations world wide.
The commander of Allied Command Operations retained the title "Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR)", and is based in the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) located at Casteau, north of the Belgian city of Mons. This is about 80 km (50 miles) south of NATO’s political headquarters in Brussels. ACO is headed by SACEUR, a US four star general with the dual-hatted role of heading US European Command, which is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. SHAPE was in Paris until 1966, when French president Charles de Gaulle withdrew French forces from the Atlantic Alliance. NATO's headquarters were then forced to move to Belgium, while many military units had to move.
ACO includes Joint Force Command Brunssum in the Netherlands, Joint Force Command Naples in Italy, and Joint Command Lisbon, all multinational headquarters with many nations represented. JFC Brunssum has its land component, Allied Land Component Command Headquarters Heidelberg at Heidelberg, Germany, its air component at Ramstein in Germany, and its naval component at the Northwood Headquarters in the northwest suburbs of London. JFC Naples has its land component in Madrid, air component at Izmir, Turkey, and naval component in Naples, Italy. It also directs KFOR in Kosovo. JC Lisbon is a smaller HQ with no subordinate commands. Lajes Field, in the Portuguese Azores, is an important transatlantic staging post. Directly responsible to SACEUR is the NATO Airborne Early Warning Force at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen in Germany where a jointly funded fleet of E-3 Sentry AWACS airborne radar aircraft is located. The C-17s of the NATO Strategic Airlift Capability, to be made operational in the next few years, will be based at Pápa airfield in Hungary, and probably come under SACEUR's control.
Allied Command Transformation (ACT) is based in the former Allied Command Atlantic headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, USA. Allied Command Atlantic, usually known as SACLANT (Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic), after its commander, became ACT in 2003. It is headed by the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), a US four-star general or admiral with the dual-hatted role as commander US Joint Forces Command (COMUSJFCOM). There is also an ACT command element located at SHAPE in Mons, Belgium.
Subordinate ACT organizations include the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) located in Stavanger, Norway (in the same site as the Norwegian NJHQ); the Joint Force Training Centre (JFTC) in Bydgoszcz, Poland; the Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Centre (JALLC) in Monsanto, Portugal; and the NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC), La Spezia, Italy.
Further Reading - Early period
Further Reading- Late Cold War period
Further Reading - Post Cold War period
Further Reading - General histories
Further Reading - Other Issues
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