The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an intergovernmental political and military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed 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 defence 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".

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. On 1 April 2009, membership was enlarged to 28 with the entrance of Albania and Croatia. Since the 11 September attacks, NATO has attempted to refocus itself to new challenges and has deployed troops to Afghanistan as well as trainers to Iraq.

The purpose of the Alliance according to the Strategic Concept from 1999 is primarily to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means, to uphold the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law and contribute to peace and stability of the entire Euro-Atlantic region. To achieve this, NATO performs the following security tasks:

And in order to enhance the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area:

More information available at: www.nato.int