NATO’s history [fr]

NATO from its inception to the end of the Cold War

The North Atlantic Treaty, which established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was signed in Washington on 4 April 1949 by 12 countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. Article 5 of the Treaty defines the collective defence commitment: "an armed attack against one or more of [the Parties] in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all".

First permanent NATO headquarters - Palais de Chaillot, Paris

The Alliance quickly established a military command structure, initially based at Rocquencourt near Paris (SHAPE, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe), with General Dwight D. Eisenhower as the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), and an international civilian staff with an HQ initially based in Paris (at the Palais de Chaillot until 1959 and then at Porte Dauphine).

In 1952, Greece and Turkey joined the Alliance. The Paris Agreements, signed in 1954, enabled the Federal Republic of Germany to join NATO in 1955. Spain also joined the Alliance in 1980 following its democratic transition.

In 1966, France announced that it would withdraw from the Alliance’s integrated military command, and as a result the NATO HQ moved to the sites in Evere and Mons, Belgium, which it still occupies today. France rejoined NATO’s military structure in 2009 (see France and NATO).

The end of the Cold War and the evolution of the missions of the Alliance

With the end of the Cold War, NATO redefined its role and missions, although the defence of Allies’ territory remained its primary role. The Allies then decided to establish partnerships with the former members of the Warsaw Pact and, in addition, with third countries which could contribute to Euro-Atlantic security. The Alliance also expanded as former members of the Eastern bloc joined NATO. NATO also began conducting its first crisis management operations in1993 in the Balkans.

The new missions and tools of the Alliance

At the 1999 Washington Summit, recognizing the changes in its security environment and the missions entrusted to it, the Alliance adopted a new Strategic Concept defining NATO’s tasks and objectives. Ten years later, at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit (2009), the Allies tasked a group of experts led by the former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, to produce a report on the functioning and the aims of the Alliance. As a result, the Allies adopted the current Strategic Concept at the Lisbon Summit of 2010.

In parallel, NATO adapted its means of action to suit its new security environment: in particular, at the 2002 Prague Summit, the Allies decided to create the NATO Response Force (NRF), a multinational force (with nations contributing on a rotational basis) of 25,000 personnel capable of rapid deployment for collective defence purposes or for crisis management operations, better adapted to NATO’s requirements than the large units from the time of the Cold War.
At the Prague Summit, the Allies also decided to streamline and modernize the military structures inherited from the Cold War. In particular, this Summit was the occasion of the creation of Allied Command Transformation (ACT), based in Norfolk, Virginia, and commanded since 2012 by the French General Jean-Paul Paloméros, to take the lead in adaptating NATO’s military structure, forces, capabilities and doctrine. This Command is tasked with piloting the Smart Defence initiative, launched in 2012 with a view to reducing the Alliance’s capability shortfalls.

Finally, in 2010 the Alliance began to reform its HQ and command structure with a view to downsizing and making them more flexible and effective.

This reform, which involves a redistribution of command posts among the different member nations, should also generate savings, committing the host nations to contribute more. These new arrangements began to be put in place on 1 December 2012 and should reach full operational capability in December 2015.

At the Lisbon Summit, the Allies also decided to merge the numerous NATO agencies (14 in total) into three main bodies in order to increase efficiency. A major milestone was reached in the summer of 2012 with the creation of these three organizations (procurement, support and communications/information), thus paving the way for rationalization and optimization efforts aimed at achieving substantial savings by 2014 (20% of operating costs).

In parallel with these structural reforms, the Heads of State and Government decided at the 1999 Washington Summit to build a new NATO HQ. The current HQ, constructed in the 1960s, no longer meets requirements, either in terms of accommodating what is now a 28-member Alliance or in terms of the services provided by the building infrastructure. The new HQ building works are scheduled to be completed at the end of 2015.

The development of the Alliance’s partnership policy

In 1991 the North Atlantic Cooperation Council saw the light of day; it was renamed the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997. In 1994 the Partnership for Peace was set up. This programme encourages partners to develop their defence capabilities and to comply with the requirements of democracy. (See "NATO’s partnerships".)
In parallel, in 1994, NATO created the Mediterranean Dialogue with Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia; Algeria joined in 2000. This was followed in 2004 by the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), a framework for cooperation and dialogue with four Gulf countries (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates).
NATO also developed a special partnership framework with Russia following the signature of the NATO-Russia Founding Act in Paris in 1997. In this document, which stresses that the Allies and Russia "do not consider each other as adversaries", the Parties undertake to cooperate to "build a stable, peaceful and undivided Europe". In 2002, the enhancement of NATO-Russia relations led to the creation of the NATO-Russia Council. Special partnership frameworks have also been developed with Ukraine (from 1997) and Georgia (in 2008).

The development of the NATO-EU partnership

In the mid-1990s, NATO also established cooperation with the European Union in the context of discussions on the development of European defence. In Berlin in 1996 the Allies decided to make NATO assets available to the Western European Union (which, following the Maastricht Treaty, was tasked with the "elaboration and implementation of the decisions and actions of the EU which have defence implications") for crisis management operations. After the turning point of the 1998 Saint-Malo Summit, when France and the United Kingdom called for the European Union to have a "capacity for autonomous action" in crisis management, and the 1999 Cologne Summit, when the decision was made to create a European security and defence policy, NATO and the EU embarked on cooperation in the area of defence.

The "Berlin-Plus" arrangements, adopted in 2003, allow the EU, like the WEU before it, to access to NATO’s capabilities for the planning and conduct of operations. Since 2003, these arrangements have been implemented in the framework of the EU missions Concordia (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and Althea (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

The most recent NATO Summits confirmed the commitment of Heads of State and Government to strengthen cooperation and dialogue between NATO and the European Union, which, according to the 2010 Strategic Concept, is a "unique and essential partner for NATO". (See EU-NATO relations.)

The enlargement of the Alliance after the Cold War

After the Cold War, the Allies decided to invite the European countries which so wished and which were in a position "to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area" (Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty) to join the Alliance.

The following countries became members of NATO:

  • Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in 1999;
  • Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in 2004;
  • Croatia and Albania in 2009.

At the moment, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Georgia are candidates for membership.

NATO operations

French AWACS over the Libyan Airspace - Operation Unified Protector, June 2011

In 1990 and 1991, during the first Gulf War, NATO deployed aircraft equipped with airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) in Turkey, as well as air defence systems to respond to the threat posed by Iraq, in the framework of Operation Anchor Guard and then Operation Ace Guard.

NATO began its first crisis management operation in 1993, establishing a no-fly zone in Bosnia and Herzegovina in accordance with Security Council decisions, and subsequently conducted a ground operation there starting in 1995 (IFOR and then SFOR). Between February and March 1999, the Alliance conducted an air operation in Serbia-Montenegro to end the conflict in Kosovo, and then deployed a ground mission – KFOR (lien NATO’s other operations). NATO also carried out three successive missions between 2001 and 2003 to contribute to the stabilization of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

In 2003, NATO took over the command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, in the framework of Resolution 1386 of the United Nations Security Council. This mission - the biggest operational engagement in the history of the Alliance - is due to come to an end on 31 December 2014. A new NATO mission to assist and train the Afghan security forces is to be put in place as from 2015. Unlike ISAF, this will not be a combat mission.

On April 1st 2011, NATO began Operation Unified Protector in Libya, in accordance with Resolution 1973 of the United Nations Security Council, to protect Libyan civilians. This operation took over from the coordinated actions launched by France, the UK, the US and several other Allies on 19 March 2011. In accordance with Resolutions 1970 and 1973, Operation Unified Protector had several components: the enforcement of an aerial and maritime embargo on weapons destined for the Libyan regime, the establishment of a no-fly zone to prevent any air attack against the population, and, finally, strike operations to prevent further violence against the Libyan people. For the first time in a NATO operation, it was the Europeans and Canada which provided most of the military assets (although the United States made up for significant shortfalls in key areas such as air-to-air refuelling and intelligence). France played a central role in this operation, performing a quarter of the air missions and a third of the air attacks. This was the corollary to the political role played by our country in resolving this crisis. Operation Unified Protector ended on 31 October 2011, having carried out its mandate in full.

NATO has also launched two maritime operations: Operation Active Endeavour, to detect and deter terrorist activities in the Mediterranean as from 2003, and Operation Ocean Shield as from 2009, as a contribution to international efforts to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa.

In December 2012, the Allies decided to reinforce Turkey’s air defence capabilities in order to defend its population and territory. In this context, interceptor batteries were deployed by three Allies near the Turkey-Syria border.

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Dernière modification : 02/07/2013

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