North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)


a military and political alliance directed against the socialist countries and the national liberation movement. Established on the initiative of the USA at the height of the “cold war,” its purpose is defined in the North Atlantic Treaty, which was signed in Washington, D.C., on Apr. 4, 1949, by representatives of the governments of the USA, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Canada, Italy, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. The treaty was signed by Greece and Turkey in 1952 and by the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in 1955.

The most important article of the North Atlantic Treaty is Article 5, which states that in the event of an “armed attack” on one or several parties to the treaty the other members of NATO will immediately assist the country or countries under “attack,” undertaking such action as they “deem necessary, including the use of armed force.” As defined in Article 6, the geographic area to which the treaty is applicable includes the territories of all parties to the treaty, islands “in the North Atlantic area north of the tropic of Cancer” that are under the jurisdiction of member states, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Article 4 of the treaty provides for consultations between member states whenever, in the opinion of any of them, “the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any of the parties is threatened.” The purpose of this article is to “validate,” if need be, the intervention of NATO in the internal affairs of its members (for example, in response to the emergence of a revolutionary situation). The treaty does not indicate how long it will remain in force. According to Article 13, any member state has the right to withdraw from participation after the treaty has been in force for 20 years, and any state may cease to be a party to the treaty one year after giving its notice of denunciation. In July 1966, France withdrew from the NATO military organization but remained a party to the North Atlantic Treaty. The French government justified its decision as part of its endeavor “to restore on French territory complete control by France over its own sovereignty.” Greece withdrew from the NATO military organization in August 1974.

The highest bodies of the bloc are the sessions of the North Atlantic Council and the Defense Planning Committee, which meet, as a rule, twice a year. At sessions of the North Atlantic Council the governments of member states are represented by ministers of foreign affairs and, depending on the agenda, by ministers of defense, finance, and the economy. Between sessions the Council meets at the level of permanent representatives of member states with the rank of ambassador. The Council in Permanent Session meets two or three times a week. Since France’s withdrawal from the military organization in 1966 and its refusal to discuss military questions within the framework of NATO, these questions have been reviewed at the ministerial level and at the level of permanent representatives in the Defense Planning Committee, which is made up of state officials of the same rank as those on the North Atlantic Council. With the exception of France, all countries represented on the North Atlantic Council are also represented on the Defense Planning Committee. Routine, ongoing work and preparation for sessions of the directing bodies of NATO are handled by the International Secretariat, under the leadership of the secretary-general of NATO (since 1971, J. Luns, the Netherlands). NATO headquarters is in Brussels.

NATO’s military expenditures have grown steadily. In 1949 the NATO countries spent a total of $18.7 billion for military purposes; in 1959, $61.6 billion; in 1969, $106.4 billion; and in 1973, more than $120 billion. The USA, which dominates NATO, contributes more than 75 percent of this sum. The military and economic position and political influence of the FRG in NATO have become significantly stronger.

Military, economic, and political cooperation has not eliminated contradictions between members of this aggressive alliance, in which there are clashes between the interests of large and small states and between members and nonmembers of the Common Market. There are also conflicts between the economic and political interests of the USA and the European countries.

The aggressive character of NATO activities and related military political alliances motivated the socialist countries to establish the Warsaw Pact (1955). Unlike NATO, it is a defense organization with membership open to any state. NATO has stubbornly rejected the proposals of the Warsaw Pact organization to conclude a nonaggression pact, as well as proposals to dissolve both alliances or eliminate their military organizations. With the normalization in the early 1970’s of relations between states belonging to opposing social systems and with the overall improvement in the international situation, discontent with NATO activities has spread among the broad masses of the population of NATO countries, and contradictions between member states have been aggravated.


NATO armed forces are subdivided into two groups—forces assigned to NATO and forces earmarked for NATO (the united armed forces), and forces remaining under national command. Units of various sizes from the ground forces and air forces of the USA, Great Britain, Canada, the FRG, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey, as well as units from the Norwegian and Danish air forces, have been transferred to NATO’s united armed forces. In addition, during wartime and during training periods the united armed forces include the naval forces of these countries and most of the armed forces of Norway, Denmark, Portugal, and Luxembourg. National control is maintained over US intercontinental ballistic missiles, US and British nuclear submarines armed with strategic aerial arms and missiles, individual units of ground forces, military training institutions, and other units. Thus, the mobilization, deployment, and defense of the national objectives of NATO members are ensured. The armed forces of France, which withdrew from NATO’s military organization, participate periodically in joint exercises of the bloc’s united armed forces in Europe and coordinate the operations of the country’s antiaircraft defense with the forces of the unified NATO antiaircraft defense forces.

In 1973 the armed forces of the NATO countries included 5.3 million men, more than 70 divisions, about 130 separate brigades and regiments, 1,054 intercontinental ballistic missiles, and about 1,000 missile-launching installations of operational-tactical and tactical importance. In addition, NATO members have more than 12,000 combat airplanes (including more than 3,200 nuclear weapons carriers), more than 17,000 tanks, approximately 27,000 guns and mortars, and about 1,500 ships of basic classes in regular naval forces. Of these forces and means, the united armed forces of NATO have at their disposal more than 50 divisions, more than 350 missile-launching installations of operational-tactical and tactical importance, more than 2,700 combat airplanes (including about 1,000 nuclear weapons carriers), more than 10,000 tanks, approximately 14,000 guns and mortars, and a total of about 1.5 million men. As of 1973, more than 7,000 nuclear warheads were stored in warehouses for NATO armed forces in Europe.

The Defense Planning Committee, NATO’s supreme military body, considers problems related to top military bodies and the structure and use of the united armed forces. It approves the bloc’s strategic concepts and defines each member’s military role. The highest executive military body is the Military Committee, which consists of the chiefs of staff of all member states except France, Iceland, and Luxembourg. The Military Committee works out NATO’s strategy and strategic plans and defines the structure of the united armed forces. The International Military Staff is subordinate to the Military Committee. During the period between sessions of the Military Committee the Military Committee in Permanent Session, which consists of representatives of the general staffs of the NATO countries, supervises implementation of the Military Committee’s decisions. The Nuclear Defense Affairs Committee is a consultative body of NATO. Its working body is the Nuclear Planning Group, which deals with questions concerning the use of the nuclear weapons at the disposal of the bloc’s united armed forces.

Direct leadership of the united armed forces in possible theaters of war is exercised by NATO’s strategic (supreme) commands in Europe and the Atlantic, the general headquarters of NATO in the English Channel zone, and the Canada-US Regional Planning Group. Representatives of all the countries belonging to NATO’s military organizations participate in the bloc’s unified commands and staffs, but the majority of the highest military positions are occupied by representatives of the US armed forces.

The strategic (supreme) command of NATO in Europe, which is headed by the supreme allied commander, is assigned the leadership of the united armed forces on the territory of the European countries, including Turkey and the waters of the Mediterranean. The position of supreme allied commander is held by an American general (1950–52, D. D. Eisenhower; 1952–53, M. B. Ridgeway; 1953–56, A. B. Gruenther; 1956–63, L. Norstad; 1963–69, L. Lemnitzer; 1969–74, A. J. Goodpaster; since 1974, A. Haig). The supreme commands in the three European theaters of military operations are under the authority of general headquarters. The Allied Forces Northern Europe are assigned to the territories and coastal waters of Norway and Denmark, the West German Land of Schleswig-Holstein, and the Baltic approaches. The Allied Forces Central Europe are responsible for the territories and coastal waters of the FRG (excluding Schleswig-Holstein), the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The Allied Forces Southern Europe cover the territories of Italy and Turkey, as well as the water areas of the Mediterranean, the Sea of Marmara, and the southern Black Sea.

The commander in chief in the Northern European theater (a post usually filled by a British general or admiral) has jurisdiction over the three united commands of northern Norway, southern Norway, and the Baltic approaches. Only units of the ground and air forces of the FRG stationed in Schleswig-Holstein and units of the ground and air forces of Denmark and Norway have been transferred into the united armed forces in northern Europe.

United ground and air forces, including units of various sizes from the USA, Great Britain, the FRG, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada, are under the authority of the general headquarters of the Central European theater. Ground forces are organizationally united into North and Central army groups, with a total of 22 divisions. These forces are distributed on the territory of the FRG, with the exception of certain Dutch, Belgian, and British units, which are located on the territories of their own countries. The air forces have been combined into two unified tactical air commands (the 2nd and 4th), with up to 1,500 combat airplanes, including more than 500 nuclear weapons carriers.

The commander in chief of the Southern European theater has authority over ground and air forces. Ground forces have been merged into commands with a total of 36 divisions in the southern part of the theater (units stationed in Italy) and in the southeastern part (units in Turkey). The air force consists of air units from the USA, Italy, and Turkey, which have been consolidated to form the 5th and 6th tactical air commands, with more than 900 combat airplanes.

In NATO’s united armed forces in Europe mobile forces have been created, consisting of reinforced battalions of ground forces trained for air transport (from the USA, Great Britain, the FRG, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Canada), as well as separate squadrons of tactical aviation. Units of mobile forces are located in the same regions as the larger units to which they belong. A unified system of NATO antiaircraft defense, consisting of zones, regions, and sectors and assigned to the territories of all the European members of NATO, has been established to cover groupings of forces and important objectives in the European theater.

The strategic (supreme) NATO command in the Atlantic (headed by the supreme allied commander Atlantic; usually an American admiral) is assigned the leadership of wartime operations of the naval forces in the Atlantic Ocean north of the tropic of Cancer (excluding the territory of Great Britain, its coastal waters, the English Channel, and the southern part of the North Sea). General headquarters and staffs of the united armed forces of NATO in the western, eastern, and Iberian Atlantic, as well as a NATO Atlantic attack fleet command, have been established and function continuously. In peacetime a standing naval unit, which periodically includes surface ships from the USA, Great Britain, Canada, the FRG, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Portugal, is under the authority of the supreme allied commander Atlantic.

The NATO command in the English Channel zone is assigned the leadership of naval combat operations in the English Channel, the Pas-de-Calais, and the southern part of the North Sea (excluding the Helgoländer Bucht).

The Canada-US Regional Planning Group works out problems related to the defense of the territories of the USA and Canada. Representatives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US and Canadian armed forces are included in the Regional Planning Group.

NATO staffs and forces hold numerous exercises and war games, during which problems in the conduct of operations are solved. The most important of these are the strategic command post exercises of the united armed forces (for example, “Winter,” and the “Strong Express” maneuvers), operational staff exercises in European theaters of military action (“Cold Winter,” “Front Central,” and “Deep Furrow”), air force and antiaircraft defense exercises such as “Reno Roulette,” and exercises such as “Express,” involving the transfer by air transport of NATO mobile forces into “threatened” regions.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Meshal Al Zaben received on Sunday North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and an accompanying delegation currently on a visit to Jordan.

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