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NATO Marks 70 Years of Peace, Growth

March 18, 2019
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On April 4, NATO will mark 70 years since the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty by its 12 founding nations. The treaty, which established the alliance, is sometimes called the Washington Treaty.

Other member nations are also marking significant anniversaries this year, NATO’s secretary general said in Brussels during a discussion of the alliance’s future.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivers keynote remarks.
Keynote Remarks
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivers the keynote remarks at an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund think tank in Brussels to discuss the future of the transatlantic alliance, March 18, 2019.
Photo By: NATO photo
VIRIN: 190318-O-ZZ999-005C

The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO 20 years ago.

Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia became members 15 years ago.

Albania and Croatia joined in 2009.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan sits in between two people.
NATO Ministers
From left, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan and North Macedonian Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska sit for a meeting during a two-day NATO defense ministerial in Brussels, Feb. 13, 2019.
Photo By: NATO
VIRIN: 190213-O-ZZ999-302

And North Macedonia is on its way to completing the accession process and becoming the alliance’s 30th member.

"NATO enlargement is not a provocation," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said today. "We respect the right of every sovereign nation to decide their own destiny ... We believe in a world without spheres of influence."

Two men speak in a crowd.
Transatlantic Alliance
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks with Ian Lesser, German Marshall Fund vice president, before discussing the future of the transatlantic alliance during an event hosted in Brussels, March 18, 2019.
Photo By: NATO photo
VIRIN: 190318-O-ZZ999-002C

NATO’s founding treaty states that membership is open to any "European state in a position to further the principles of this treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area."

The alliance grew out of the experiences of the early 20th century. The World Wars were born out of conflicts that had been nearly constant on the continent for hundreds of years,  "For most of Europe’s history, conflict was our constant companion," Stoltenberg said. "The last 70 years have been the exception. And we should not take peace for granted."