NATO is the cornerstone of the UK’s defence and has been at the heart of the UK since 1949.
The Washington Treaty — or North Atlantic Treaty — was signed in the State Department auditorium in Washington D.C. on 4 April 1949 by 12 founding members.
The Treaty derives its authority from Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which reaffirms the inherent right of independent states to individual or collective defence.
Under the Treaty an armed attack against one or more of its signatories in Europe or North America counted as an attack against them all; they were, the Preamble stated, “determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.”
Here are six reasons the world needs NATO.
1. A political and military alliance
Since its beginning, NATO’s purpose has been to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. NATO at its core is a defensive alliance.
Political. NATO promotes democratic values and enables members to consult and cooperate on defence and security-related issues. Helping to solve problems, build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.
Military. NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of conflicts. If diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military power to undertake crisis-management operations. These are carried out under Article 5, (the collective defence clause of NATO’s founding treaty) in cooperation with partner countries and international organisations.
2. Article 5: An attack on one is an attack on all
Article 5 of the Washington Treaty (NATO’s founding document) states that “an attack or provocation on one of its member states is considered as an attack against all.” This is known as collective defence and has come into play once — in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
3. NATO’s members and partner nations
The most important players in NATO are the member countries themselves.
There are currently 30 members in NATO, with North Macedonia the latest to join in 2020.
The UK is a founding member of the organisation and has supported its allies for over 70 years since its formation in 1949.
All members of NATO must commit to spending at least 2% of their Gross Domestic Profits on defence. The UK fully meets and exceeds this commitment.
Each year, updated tables with nations’ defence expenditures are published on the NATO website.
Forty non-member countries work with NATO on a wide range of political and security-related issues. These countries pursue dialogue and practical cooperation with the Alliance and many contribute to NATO-led operations and missions. NATO is also cooperating with a wide network of international organisations.
Partner countries do not have the same decision-making authority as member countries.
4. The “Open Door” Policy
The Open Door Policy is a founding principle of NATO and means that any country in the Euro-Atlantic area is free to join NATO as long as they are prepared to meet the standards and obligations of membership, they contribute to the security of the Alliance and Shares NATO’s values of democracy, reform and the rule of law.
Since 1949, NATO’s membership has grown from 12 to 30 countries. In 2020 North Macedonia was welcomed as the 30th member of the NATO Alliance.
5. The Transatlantic Link
NATO is an alliance of countries from Europe and North America. It provides a unique link between these two continents, enabling them to consult and cooperate in the field of defence and security, and conduct multinational crisis-management operations together.
6. Together we are stronger
Collectively, NATO members comprise at least 50% of the world’s total GDP and can call on over 3 million men and women for active service.
UK Armed Forces personnel are deployed on NATO operations and Headquarter’s across the alliance, demonstrating their ability to operate together as one.
Exercises also take place each year which show NATO partners integrating together, becoming a stronger force to help keep threats at bay. For example, UK and NATO partners are currently taking part in Exercise Strike Warrior in off of north-west Scotland’s shore.
Find out where the UK Armed Forces are deployed here 👇