Founded on 4.4.1949 by Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the USA as a collective defense union. Greece and Turkey joined 1952, West Germany 1955, Spain 1982, Poland, Czech and Hungary 1999.

"The heart of the North Atlantic Treaty and thus of the NATO alliance is Article 5, 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;" by

The NATO was formed as a counterweight to the Soviets.
It is lead by the North Atlantic Council with consists of representaries of the member states.
In 1999 the NATO fought its first war, an air war against Yugoslavia.

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The expansion of NATO, November 2002

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, commonly known as NATO, expanded to 26 members on November 21, 2002 by provisionally incorporating seven countries which had been under Communist rule not much more than a decade before: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Slovakia.

Although three eastern European countries - Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary - had already joined the alliance in 1999, coincidentally just in time for NATO's action in Kosovo, this round included the three Baltic states, parts of the Soviet Union itself until 1991.

The enlargement, to be formalised in 2004, was announced at NATO's Prague summit, the city where the Warsaw Pact had dissolved itself at the end of the Cold War. All the new member states, as well as the class of '99, had belonged to the Pact, with the exception of Slovenia, then a republic of Yugoslavia which played a leading role in the Non-Aligned Movement.

No, Slovenia. They've both joined at once, so there isn't any excuse.

While NATO became responsible for some 44 million people after the expansion, the military utility of some of its new signatories appeared somewhat limited: the Estonian army, the smallest of the seven, contained only 4,500 soldiers, although has enthusiastically contributed to international peacekeeping.

The strategic value of Bulgaria and Romania was more readily apparent, providing convenient bases close to Kosovo and ensuring a clear flight path towards the Middle East, should such a thing be thought to come in handy.

Even the Slovenian contingent of 7,600 includes a specialist mountain fighting force, a detachment the Alpine republic would have been badly advised to try to do without. NATO might have been especially anxious to get these last into the fold, if one can believe a story gleefully repeated in sections of the British media that, during the war in Afghanistan, soldiers of the illustrious 10th Mountain Division were overheard declaring that 'We don't do mountains.'

The enlargement was warmly welcomed in the newcomer states, the mayor of Bucharest declaring it 'the first moment of national dignity since World War I.' Many Baltic citizens welcomed the alliance as providing them with insurance in case they should ever be placed under threat by Russia, although the nearest any of their politicians came to controversy was the former Estonian prime minister Mart Laar's decision to shave off his beard in celebration.

The Czech president Vaclav Havel suffered one or two sleepless nights of another kind, having to organise the tight security arrangements obligatory for any international summit since Seattle. American fighter planes flew over Prague to guard against a terrorist attack, and shops around Wenceslas Square were boarded up in case anti-globalization protests turned violent.

(At the time of writing, the 14,000 soldiers and riot police on duty had been vexed by little more than several offensive tomatoes.)

A future round of NATO expansion is likely to comprise Albania, Macedonia and Croatia, all of whom have signed up to the preliminary Partnership for Peace scheme. Bringing the first two on board is likely to have more to do with regional stability than tipping the balance against Saddam Hussein, while Croatia's entry will depend on stepping up its co-operation with the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague.

The participation of the Ukraine appears rather more uncertain, despite the enthusiasm of its president Leonid Kuchma: not long before the Prague summit, the American government had claimed he had helped sell an aircraft detection system to Iraq. To NATO leaders' chagrin, Kuchma attended the summit after all, forcing a quick shuffle of the seating plan to avoid him being placed between Tony Blair and George W. Bush in the plenary session.
Omnidirectional Halo says: Quick addition: Croatia, Albania and Macedonia are not only PfP members, but also Membership Action Plan (MAP) members, which is why they're expected to form the next round of expansion. They are. Thank you.

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