North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) - Founders, List of Members, History, Download PDF

By Saroj Singh|Updated : February 25th, 2022

North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO is an intergovernmental political and military alliance between North America and Europe born out of World Wat II and signed into effect in 1949. Its main aim back then was to put back against any future aggression from the Soviet Union. This became particularly important in 1955 when the Soviet Union and seven other European countries signed the Warsaw Pact. Communism was spreading across Eastern and Central Europe – and this pact promised military support for Soviet satellite states. It is in news amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. In this article, we will discuss in detail NATO.

This article is important for MPSC Rajyaseva and MPSC Combined Exams


North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

North Atlantic Treaty Organization is also called the North Atlantic Alliance. It was founded in the aftermath of World War II, with an aim to secure peace in Europe, promote cooperation among its members, and guard their freedom. All of this was in the context of countering the threat posed by the Soviet Union.


In 1949, the Alliance’s founding treaty was signed in Washington by twelve European and North American countries. NATO commits the Allies to observe democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, and peaceful resolution of disputes. The treaty works on democratic values and sets out the idea of collective defense, meaning an attack against all Allies.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization – or NATO- ensures that the security of its European member countries is inseparably linked to that of its North American member countries.

Key Highlights

NATO member countries

There are 30 members countries presently and are the important players in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are the member countries themselves.

Albania (2009)

Belgium (1949)

Bulgaria (2004)

Canada (1949)

Croatia (2009)

Czech Republic (1999)

Denmark (1949)

Estonia (2004)

France (1949)

Germany (1955)

Greece (1952)

Hungary (1999)

Iceland (1949)

Italy (1949)

Latvia (2004

Lithuania (2004)

Luxembourg (1949)

Montenegro (2017)

Netherlands (1949)

North Macedonia (2020)

Norway (1949)

Poland (1999)

Portugal (1949)

Romania (2004)

Slovakia (2004)

Slovenia (2004)

Spain (1982)

Turkey (1952)

The United Kingdom (1949)

The United States (1949)

Headquarters: Brussels, Belgium

Official language: English, French

Secretary-General: Jens Stoltenberg

Which countries can join NATO?

  • NATO membership is open and permitted to any other European state which positions to 

- further the principles of this Treaty and 

- contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area

  • Under the Membership Action Plan, NATO helps aspiring members prepare for membership and meet key requirements by providing practical advice and targeted assistance.

How do NATO function? 

  • NATO provides a unique forum for dialogue and cooperation across the Atlantic. Initially, the Alliance started with 12 member countries in 1949. However, the founding Treaty allows other European nations to join the Alliance as long as the existing Allies agree for the same.
  • Any prospective member must share NATO’s core values. It should have the capacity and willingness to contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area.
  • Presently, NATO has 30 members who are stronger and safer together. For about seven decades, NATO has ensured peace within its territory. While the threats and the way NATO deals with them have also evolved over time, the purpose, values, and founding principles of the Alliance have remained the same.
  • For its first four decades, the Cold War defined the Alliance and its collective defense was NATO’s main role. In 1989, when that confrontation ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, some said that NATO fulfilled its purpose, that it was no longer needed. And yet the Alliance is still here.

How has NATO stood the test of time?

  • The end of the Cold War offered hope for progress and peace. But it also ushered in a new era of instability, and NATO has responded to changes in the security environment by shifting its focus, also taking on new tasks.
  • NATO aims to promote security through partnership and cooperation beyond ensuring the collective defense of its members. Since the early 1990s, the Alliance has developed relations with non-member countries as well such as former Cold War adversaries of the former ‘Eastern Bloc’, etc. And some of these partners have since become members of the Alliance.
  • Presently, it is working with non-member countries and other organizations is considered as one of NATO’s fundamental tasks. It works with 40 partner countries too with other international organizations, like the European Union and United Nations.
  • NATO has taken on a crucial role in international crisis management since the end of the Cold War, and working closely with partner countries, the Alliance helped to end the war and build sustainable peace in the Balkans.
  • During the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Allies and partners deployed forces to Afghanistan to help bring stability. And during the Arab Spring, NATO led an air campaign over Libya to protect civilians being targeted by the Qadhafi dictatorship.

NATO surveillance in sea operations


  • In maritime security operations, NATO and its partners have helped to prevent piracy off the Horn of Africa and to cooperate in fighting terrorism in the Mediterranean Sea and has also supported international efforts to stem illegal migration and human trafficking in the Aegean Sea.
  • With technological advancements, there is a much broader range of threats than in the past. Globally, to the East, Russia has become more assertive with the illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilization of Ukraine, as well as its military build-up close to NATO’s borders. To the South, the security situation in Middle East Africa has deteriorated, fuelling large-scale migration flows, inspiring terrorist attacks, and causing loss of life.
  • NATO is responding by reinforcing its deterrence and defense posture, as well as supporting international efforts to stabilize and strengthen the security outside NATO territory. 
  • In present times, there is a constant threat and confronted with the spread of weapons of mass destruction, threats to energy supplies, cyber-attacks, and environmental challenges with security implications.
  • These challenges are too big for any one country or a single organization to handle on its own, so NATO is working closely with its network of partners to help tackle them.
  • Consensus and consultation are part of NATO’s fundamental functionalities. All member countries are represented in the North Atlantic Council, where decisions are taken by consensus – meaning unanimously- expressing the collective will of all the nations. 



  • There is no NATO army, i.e., national forces are under any national command. When called upon, Allied nations volunteer their troops, equipment, or any other capabilities to NATO-led operations and exercises. 
  • Each member state pays its own armed forces and covers the cost of deploying its forces. But together, the allies get a lot more security for a lot less cost than they had to do it alone. 
  • Each member contributes a small percentage of its national defense budget to NATO. The national contributions pay for running the political and operational headquarters in Belgium, as well as the integrated military command structure across NATO territory. 
  • They also cover some of the costs of shared military capabilities, systems, and facilities needed for communication, command, and control, all for logistical support to NATO operations. Other multinational capability projects are funded by groups of Allies. 
  • Thanks to years of joint planning, exercises, and deployments, soldiers from different nations can work well together when the need arises. Working together, the Allies are stronger.     

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  • No, India is not a NATO member. But in 2019 India is designated as Major non-NATO Ally. The 30 NATO member countries list is shared in the article above.

  • 1994, Russia joined NATO, but on 1 April 2014, NATO unanimously decided to suspend all practical co-operation with the Russian Federation. It was in response to the Annexation of Crimea, but the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) was not suspended. Russia suspended its mission to NATO and ordered the closure of NATO's office in Moscow in 2021 when eight of its officials were expelled form Brussels, NATO's headquarters

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