What is NATO?


You might have heard it on the news and during the presidential debate but you still may not know exactly what is NATO and why it’s important. In this day and age, we need to be vigilant and we need to be active members of our society that’s why it’s important to know things like what is NATO. The government is involved in activities concerning NATO and as tax paying citizens, we must be informed.


To put it plainly, NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Its basic definition is the first thing you need to understand what is NATO. It is an alliance of 28 countries bordering the North Atlantic Ocean. This includes the US, Canada, Turkey and other members of the EU or the European Union. America contributes to three-fourths of NATO’s budget.

In a political sense, NATO promotes democratic values and helps to enable its members to consult and cooperate on issues related to defense and security. It helps to solve problems, prevent conflicts and build trust.

NATO also commits to the resolution of disputes in a peaceful way. When efforts of diplomacy fail, NATO has the military power to do crisis management operations. They do this under the clause of collective defense in the founding treaty which is the Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.


The mission of NATO is to protect the freedom of its members and help in times of attacks, like when Russia attacked Ukraine in July 2016. It’s good to know the purpose of NATO to learn more about what is NATO. It targets weapons of mass destructions, terrorism and cyber attacks like the terrorist attack in Paris. This agreement binds the United States to defend Europe. Any attackers of a NATO ally whether in Europe or Canada will also have to go to war with the US. They aim to keep its members safe by deterring attacks.

Another purpose of NATO is to protect the region’s stability. It means that in some cases, it would defend non-members. A great example would be again Ukraine. Ukraine is not a member of NATO but it helps when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. Ukraine has been working with NATO for several years. When Russia invaded Ukraine, it was also a threat to nearby NATO members.

Every day, its member countries consult and make decisions on issues of security and a wide variety of fields. When NATO makes a decision, it is the expression of a collective decision of all its member countries. These decisions taken by consensus. Officials and military members come to NATO headquarters to exchange information, share ideas and help prepare decisions for different situations. They cooperate with the national delegates and staff at NATO. It’s a great background to learn more about what is NATO. For personal defense, here is the best automatic knife.

What is Article 5?

So what is this Article 5 and what does it have to do with what is NATO? Basically, it states that if a NATO member or ally becomes the victim of an attack, other members of the alliance will consider this act as an attack on all its members and will take the necessary actions to assist the ally that is under attack.

There are several times that Article 5 has been used. After the 9-11 tragedy, after they determined that the attacks came from abroad, NATO agreed to a package of 8 measures to defend and support the United States. It launched its first anti-terror operation at the request of the US in 2001 to 2002 called the Eagle Assist. NATO helped in patrolling the skies over the US with 830 crew members from 13 NATO countries.

Member Countries

Which countries are members of NATO? The 28 countries are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other later members are Greece and Turkey, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Albania and Croatia.

History of NATO

To expand your knowledge about what is NATO, here is a little bit of its history and how it started.

  • Founding

    The founding members of NATO signed the North Atlantic Treaty on the fourth of April in 1949. Its primary purpose then was to defend its member nations against troops in countries that are pro-communists. The United States wants to maintain its presence in Europe so it sought to prevent the resurgence of aggressive nationalism. They tried to foster political union. So NATO also made the EU or the European Union possible.

  • Cold War

    NATO’s mission expanded to prevent escalations to nuclear war during the Cold War. When West Germany joined NATO, communist countries formed the alliance of the Warsaw Pact. The Pact alliance includes the USSR, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. So NATO adopted the Massive Retaliation policy in response to the pact. They promised to use nuclear weapons if the pact attacked NATO members and allies. This deterrence policy allowed Europe to focus on their economic development. There was no need to build large armies.

    But the Soviet Union continued to build a military presence. When the Cold War ended, it spent three times of what the United States was spending and had only one-third of the economic power. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was due to economic and ideological reasons.

    The USSR dissolved in the 1980s and NATO’s relationship with Russia was a thaw. So in 1997, the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed to build bilateral cooperation. They also formed the NATO-Russia Council in 2002 to be partners on shared security issues. It’s good to look back at these events to understand more on what is NATO.

NATO Funding

Every member country of NATO contributes to the cost of running the alliance. The biggest contributions come from the allies taking part in missions that are led by NATO and its operations. One country might provide fighter jets and another can provide ships or troops. The allies also pay directly to NATO to cover the costs of staff and NATO buildings.

These are all the necessary elements in understanding what is NATO.