What Is NATO

January 24, 2022
What Is NATO


What to know about the largest military alliance in the world.


  • NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organization

  • An alliance created in 1949 by the U.S., Canada, & several Western European countries in the aftermath of WWII – in part to provide security vs. the Soviet Union.

  • 30 member nations now share this alliance based on "collective defense""an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies" (NATO).

  • NATO's mission: "to safeguard the Allies’ freedom and security by political and military means."

The Basics:

  • Who Pays For NATO? Nations commit funds based on a formula that includes a small percent of their defense budget (NATO says less than half of member nations currently meet this commitment).

  • Who Leads NATO? The Secretary General, who is appointed by NATO members.

  • Current Secretary General: Jens Stoltenberg (former PM of Norway).

  • Does NATO have its own troops? No. All troops & most resources come from NATO nations.

Key Terms:

  • NRF = NATO Response Force: The NRF is made up of troops (land, air, maritime, & special forces) from different NATO countries.

  • VJTF = Very High Readiness Joint Task Force: An extension of the NRF, this unit of about 5,000 allied troops is ready for deployment at any time.

  • NATO currently has about 4,000 multinational troops deployed in Eastern Europe with tanks, air defenses, & intelligence units. This does not include independent forces in Europe (i.e. America's air base in Germany).

I welcome Allies contributing additional forces to NATO. NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all Allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the Alliance."

NATO Sec. Gen. Jens Stoltenberg regarding defense in Eastern Europe. Allies preparing to send aid include Denmark (fighter jets), Spain (ships), & France (troops). The U.S. announced up to 8,500 American troops with "heightened readiness" to deploy.

Who's Not A Member of NATO? Ukraine. A new member needs unanimous consent among current members. Political corruption, instability and Ukraine's relationship with Russia since its independence in 1991 have been some factors in potential membership. However, Ukraine and NATO have become closer partners, with NATO reporting that Ukraine has actively contributed to NATO operations and missions.

About NATO

Funding NATO

NATO Response Force

NATO sends reinforcements and U.S. puts troops on alert as Ukraine tensions rise (Reuters)

NATO Won't Let Ukraine Join Soon. Here's Why. (The New York Times)

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), 1949 (Office of the Historian, U.S. Dept. of State)

by Jenna Lee,