The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),established under the North Atlantic Treaty (Apr. 4, 1949) by 12 countries (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States). Greece and Turkey entered the alliance in 1952, West Germany (now Germany) entered in 1955, and Spain joined in 1982. In 1999 the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland joined, and Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania and Croatia joined five years later, bringing the membership to 28. NATO's headquarters are in Brussels. In the 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Treaty Organization, NATO's role in world affairs changed. The treaty, one of the major Western countermeasures against the threat of aggression by the Soviet Union during the cold war, was aimed at safeguarding the freedom of the North Atlantic community. NATO has increasingly concentrated on extending security and stability throughout Europe, and on peacekeeping efforts in Europe and elsewhere. NATO today is the military organization more used to the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council relating to situations of global crisis. Together, the Permanent Members form the North Atlantic Council (NAC), a body which meets together at least once a week and has effective governance authority and powers of decision in NATO.

Editor: Giovanni AVERSA