THE North Atlantic Treaty Organization defeated its Soviet enemy
without firing a shot, earning the reputation as one of the most
successful military alliances in history.
After the end of the cold war, some argued that NATO should
disband. But today, NATO is newly robust. The 60,000-strong peace
implementation force (IFOR) deploying in Bosnia is the biggest
mission in the history of the alliance.
NATO has long played a role in supporting peace. Some say NATO's
real achievement in the past 46 years is that there hasn't been a
war between any of its members - especially France and Germany,
which had competed to dominate the Continent until World War II.
What is NATO and how does it relate to Americans?
NATO is a 16-member military alliance consisting of the United
States, Canada, and 14 European nations from Iceland to Turkey.
During the cold war, the nations of the democratic West used NATO
to organize their defense against possible invasion from the
communist East, dominated by the Soviet Union.
NATO is the forum in Europe for handling transatlantic security.
NATO is what makes the United States a European power. And just as
the two world wars bound earlier generations of Americans to Europe
in a very personal way, so NATO has tied Americans to Europe in the
years since. The American commitment to NATO has brought 15 million
Americans and their families over the years to serve in Germany,
where the vast majority of US military personnel have been
stationed for NATO. The US presence in Europe, now at about 100,000
troops, is about one-third of its cold-war peak.
What does NATO commit its member nations to do?
Under the Treaty of Washington - the basis for NATO that was
signed April 4, 1949 - NATO members agreed that an armed attack
against one would be considered an attack on all.
But the treaty's careful wording gives some latitude in the
response to such an attack. Members agreed that each of them would
assist an attacked party or parties individually or collectively,
"including the use of armed force, to restore or maintain the
security of the North Atlantic area."
How does an international organization of 16 member states
Each member nation's vote carries the same weight as another's.
But there is no mistaking the dominant American presence in NATO.
"NATO works with American leadership," said one diplomat recently.
The military commander of the alliance is always American; the
secretary-general is always European.
NATO sets its budget by means of a two-year planning exercise,
in which each member submits its military budget and defense plans
for review by the group. The US contributes roughly a quarter of
the cost of the alliance.
What is the Partnership for Peace (PFP)?
Launched at the Brussels summit in January 1994, the PFP is
NATO's, and particularly the Clinton administration's, attempt to
beef up the security of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet
empire. NATO promises to "consult" PFP members that perceive a
direct threat to their territorial integrity, political
independence, or security. Some PFP members are using PFP as a
steppingstone to full NATO membership. For others, PFP is an end in
Who belongs to PFP?
Twenty-six Eurasian countries that fall into several groups:
Neutral nations interested in peacekeeping (e.g., Sweden); nations
once controlled by the Soviet Union that want to join NATO as soon
as possible (e.g., Poland); former Soviet-controlled nations that
want to join but are less ready to do so (e.g., Bulgaria); and
former Soviet republics that haven't expressed interest in NATO