What Does NATO Do?

Oct. 2, 2018

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis is in Brussels, Oct. 3-4, for two days of meetings with his fellow defense ministers at NATO’s headquarters.

So what is NATO, and what does it do?

NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It was formed in 1949 to provide collective security against the threat posed by the Soviet Union.

Graphic lists basic NATO Facts
NATO Facts Graphic
Graphic lists basic NATO Facts
Photo By: Regina Ali
VIRIN: 181001-D-ZZ999-221

The original members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. Though the Soviet Union has long since fallen, the world has continued to be a dangerous place throughout the nearly seven decades since NATO was formed, and now 29 nations are members of the alliance.

To make it easier for so many countries to communicate, NATO has two official languages: English and French. This means that it also has two acronyms -- in French, NATO is OTAN, which stands for Organisation du Traité de l'Atlantique Nord.

One of the founding principles of NATO is Article 5 of its charter, which states that an armed attack on one member nation would be considered as an attack on all. The alliance invoked Article 5 for the first time in its history following the 9/11 attacks.

In addition to contributing to the war effort in Afghanistan, NATO member nations responded by helping the U.S. military with airspace defense and security over the United States and with maritime patrols in the Mediterranean Sea to guard against movement of weapons and terrorists.



An ambulance sits inside a severely damaged structure. - A structure shows extensive damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct 11, 2018.

An airman holds up his Purple Heart medal. - Air Force First Lt. Kevin Summerbell, a C-17 Globemaster III pilot, holds up the Purple Heart he received after being shot in Iraq by enemy combatants while serving in the Army, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2015. Summerbell later commissioned as an officer in the Air Force to be a C-17 pilot, the same aircraft he was flown back on after being wounded.

An Army field artillery unit is shelled by German forces in France. - An Army field artillery unit is shelled by German forces in France. during World War l.

Aerial photo shows warehouses damaged by a hurricane that are surrounded by debris. - Warehouses destroyed by Hurricane Michael near Panama City, Fla., are visible during a flyover by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection air and marine operations crew, Oct. 11, 2018.