On this day in 1949 the idea of NATO was conceived . North Atlantic Treaty Organization or in French ,OTAN, Organisation du traité de l’Atlantique nord.
The foundations were laid down on 4 April 1949 with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty, more popularly known as the Washington Treaty.
On 4 April 1949, the foreign ministers from 12 countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty (also known as the Washington Treaty) at the Departmental Auditorium in Washington, D.C.: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Within the five months following the signing ceremony, the Treaty was ratified by the parliaments of the interested countries, sealing their membership.
The 12 signatories
Some of the foreign ministers who signed the Treaty were heavily involved in NATO’s work at a later stage in their careers:
Belgium: M. Paul-Henri Spaak (NATO Secretary General, 1957-1961);
Canada: Mr Lester B. Pearson (negotiated the Treaty and was one of the “Three Wise Men”, who drafted the report on non-military cooperation in NATO, published in 1956 in the wake of the Suez Crisis);
Denmark: Mr Gustav Rasmussen;
France: M. Robert Schuman (architect of the European institutions, who also initiated the idea of a European Defence Community);
Iceland: Mr Bjarni Benediktsson;
Italy: Count Carlo Sforza;
Luxembourg: M. Joseph Bech;
the Netherlands: Dr D.U. Stikker (NATO Secretary General, 1961-1964);
Norway: Mr Halvard M. Lange (one of the “Three Wise Men”, who drafted the report on non-military cooperation in NATO);
Portugal: Dr José Caeiro da Matta;
United Kingdom: Mr Ernest Bevin (a main driver behind the creation of NATO and as Foreign Secretary from 1945 to 1951, he attended the first formative meetings of the North Atlantic Council);
United States: Mr Dean Acheson (as US Secretary of State from 1949 to 1953, he attended and chaired meetings of the North Atlantic Council).
The North Atlantic Alliance was founded in the aftermath of the Second World War. Its purpose was to secure peace in Europe, to promote cooperation among its members and to guard their freedom – all of this in the context of countering the threat posed at the time by the Soviet Union. The Alliance’s founding treaty was signed in Washington in 1949 by a dozen European and North American countries. It commits the Allies to democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, as well as to peaceful resolution of disputes. Importantly, the treaty sets out the idea of collective defence, meaning that an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization – or NATO – ensures that the security of its European member countries is inseparably linked to that of its North American member countries. The Organization also provides a unique forum for dialogue and cooperation across the Atlantic.
The heart of NATO is expressed in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, in which the signatory members agree that:
“an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all; and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”
NATO was the first peacetime military alliance the United States entered into outside of the Western Hemisphere. After the destruction of the Second World War, the nations of Europe struggled to rebuild their economies and ensure their security.
Dominated by the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact was established in May 1955 as a balance of power or counterweight to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Joining the originaL NATO signatories were Greece and Turkey (1952); West Germany (1955; from 1990 as Germany).
Spain (1982); the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland (1999); Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia (2004); Albania and Croatia (2009); Montenegro (2017); and North Macedonia (2020). France withdrew from the integrated military command of NATO in 1966 but remained a member of the organization; it resumed its position in NATO’s military command in 2009. Finland and Sweden, two long-neutral countries, were formally invited to join NATO in 2022.
Finland will join NATO today, on the 74th anniversary of NATO