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North Atlantic Treaty

North Atlantic Treaty

The North Atlantic Treaty was a treaty of military alliance committing the United States and eleven other nations to the principle of common security on a regional basis. The purpose of the treaty was to promote the common values of its members and unite their efforts for collective defense. Signed on April 4, 1949, the treaty was unusual in that it was the first peacetime alliance America had ever entered into with a European power. The other participating nations were: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.

The year 1949 marked the beginning of a period in history known as the Cold War (1949–1991). In a cold war, there is no physical warfare, just intense military rivalry and political tension. In this case, the Cold War was between the Soviet Union and the United States, the world's two primary superpowers. The reason America considered the Soviet Union an enemy is because it was a communist nation. Communism is a political system in which the government controls all resources and means of producing wealth. By eliminating private property, this system is designed to create an equal society with no social classes. However, communist governments in practice often limit personal freedom and individual rights. The United States had feared the spread of communism for years.

What the North Atlantic Treaty Does

Every peace treaty has articles that define its purpose or point. The North Atlantic Treaty has fourteen:

  1. Peaceful resolution of disputes.
  2. Pledges the parties to economic and political cooperation.
  3. Development of the capacity for defense.
  4. Provides joint consultations when a member is threatened.
  5. Promises the use of members’ military forces for collective self-defense.
  6. Defines the areas covered by the treaty.
  7. Affirms the members’ obligations under the United Nations Charter.
  8. Safeguards against conflict with other treaties of member countries.
  9. Creates a council to manage the implementation of the treaty.
  10. Describes admission procedures of other interested nations.
  11. States the ratification (approval) procedure.
  12. Allows for reconsideration (review) of the treaty after it has been in force for ten years.
  13. Outlines withdrawal procedures for countries that no longer wish to be members of the North Atlantic Treaty.
  14. Calls for official copies of the treaty to be kept in the U.S. Archives.

Under the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed. Its initial purpose was to defend Western Europe against possible invasion by communist countries. Over the years, other countries joined NATO.

After the end of the Cold War in 1991, NATO extended an invitation to join to former members of the Warsaw Pact. The pact was a communist military alliance established in 1955 by the Soviet Union in response to NATO. In 1999, former Warsaw Pact members Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia) joined NATO. The organization's membership now included nineteen countries. Seven more countries joined in 2004.

As the years passed, NATO extended its peacekeeping efforts beyond Europe. In 2003, peacekeeping forces were deployed to Afghanistan, where U.S. and British troops had been fighting a war on terrorism since October 2001. (See Afghanistan conflict .) The American name for the conflict was Operation Enduring Freedom; it was still being fought in mid-2008.

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