In the aftermath of World War II, the Red Army had occupied the entirety of Eastern Europe and tensions were rising between the East and the West. In the West, democracies were now arising in countries that had been liberated from Nazi Germany by the Allies, while in the East communist governments were now being forced into place by the Soviet Union in countries such as Hungary, Romania, Poland, etc. To protect the nations of Western Europe from the threat of a Soviet invasion, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, was formed.
Founded on April 4th, 1949, in the capitol Washington D.C., the mission behind NATO was to provide a collective defense for all member countries; essentially, one member could not be attacked or it would be seen as an attack on the entirety of NATO. This way, countries could not be conquered one-by-one like the beginning of World War II.
The original NATO members included the United States of America, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France, Canada, Portugal, Italy, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and later West Germany (Or the Federal Republic of Germany) in 1952. Today NATO also includes many other members of Europe such as Spain, Turkey, Greece, and many former members of the Warsaw Pact who sought protection against Russian intervention, including Albania, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Slovenia, bringing the total number of member countries to twenty-eight.
During the Cold War, it seemed NATO would possibly be drawn into conflict with the Warsaw Pact, an opposing military alliance consisting of the USSR and the other communist nations of Europe, although both the Warsaw Pact and the USSR have both disintegrated. However, NATO has engaged in operations during the Bosnian War of 1993, in which it enacted a no-fly zone deemed Operation Deny Flight over the nation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. NATO later commenced Operation Deliberate Force by bombing Serb forces in 1995, then Implementation Force (IFOR), followed by Stabilization Force (SFOR). NATO was also involved in Kosovo Force (KFOR), beginning in 1999 that is still maintained today. In 2001, the 9/11 attacks caused the alliance to support the United States and led the organization International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, which is made up of NATO members and non-NATO members involved in fighting the Taliban and other insurgencies. Similar to the bombing of Yugoslavia, NATO air forces were also a major part in the overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Member-nations are not the only nations who cooperate with or contribute to NATO missions, as there is also the Partnership for Peace program, including countries from Europe such as Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Finland, Sweden, Russia, etc. but also countries outside of Europe such as Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, etc. There is also the NATO-Russia Council, an organization formed at the NATO-Russia Summit held in Rome during 2002, which is responsible for maintaining the relationship between NATO-members and Russia. The NRC has thus far been very successful, as the NRC is currently working with both groups on multiple issues despite the two being former enemies for many years.
The effects of the NATO alliance can be seen in many places today, from the standard NATO cartridges developed for firearms to the many operations and meetings held between member countries. Although some people believe NATO’s role has been fulfilled with the end of the Cold War, NATO has been shown giving teeth to UN-mandated peace keeping operations and providing security to the nations of Europe, stabilizing the region while assisting in multiple ways around the world.