North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), regional defence alliance, formed under Article 9 of the North Atlantic Treaty signed on April 4, 1949. The original signatories were Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States. Greece and Turkey were admitted to the alliance in 1952, West Germany in 1955, and Spain in 1982. NATO's purpose is to enhance the stability, well-being, and freedom of its members by means of a system of collective security. In 1990 the newly unified Germany replaced West Germany as a NATO member.
In the years after World War II (1939-1945), many Western leaders saw the policies of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) as threatening the stability and peace in Europe. The forcible installation of Communist governments throughout Eastern Europe, territorial demands by the USSR (the former Soviet Union), and their support of guerrilla war in Greece and regional separatism in Iran appeared to many as the first steps of World War III. Such events prompted the signing of the Dunkirk Treaty in 1947 between Britain and France, pledging common defence against aggression. Subsequent events, including the rejection by Eastern European nations of the European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan) and the creation of Cominform, a European Communist organization in 1947, led to the Brussels Treaty signed by most Western European countries in 1948. Among the goals of that pact was the collective defence of its members. The Berlin blockade that began in March 1948 led to negotiations between Western Europe, Canada, and the United States that resulted in the North Atlantic Treaty.
The treaty consists of a preamble and 14 articles. The preamble states its purpose: to promote the common values of its members and to "unite their efforts for collective defence". Article 1 calls for peaceful resolution of disputes. Article 2 pledges the parties to economic and political cooperation. Article 3 calls for development of the capacity for defence. Article 4 provides for joint consultations when a member is threatened. Article 5 promises the use of the members' armed forces for "collective self-defence". Article 6 defines the areas covered by the treaty. Article 7 affirms the precedence of members' obligations under the United Nations Charter. Article 8 safeguards against conflict with any other treaties of the signatories.
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