After World War II the world was a mess. Destruction and millions of dead people spread over multiple continents led to one conclusion: never again. A time arose in which many unions and treaties were formed and signed. Across the whole world there was a need for peace. The Treaty of Brussels was signed by Great-Brittain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg -in case the nazis would ever return. It however quickly became clear that the destroyed nation of Germany would not form a real threat anymore. The enormous force majeur and nuclear weapons of the Soviet Union were a different story however.
In this period it was the US in particular who were concerned about the rise of communism and the increasing power that the Soviets had. This led to the founding of NATO. The Treaty of Brussels grew to be a treaty in which now also the US, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway and Portugal became part of. Later Greece, Turkey and German Federal Republic also signed this treaty.
The forming of the NATO was seen as a threat by the communist countries. Soviet party leader Chroesjtsjov came with the proposition to also sign a treaty; the Treaty of Warsaw. Countries involved were the Soviet Union, Albania, Romania, the DDR, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. This was the reaction to the joining of the German Federal Republic to the NATO. There was a clear line drawn between the west and east of Europe. The forming of the NATO was at the beginning of the cold war.
At the core of the North-Atlantic treaty was the case that one of the allied countries would be under attack, the other countries could see this as an attack on themselves. By helping and cooperating between the NATO countries, the attacker could be defeated more easily. To be able to defend themselves, the NATO introduced STANAG. Standardization Agreement, or STANAG, is aimed at streamlining procedures, communication, equipment and munition of all affiliated countries. This should ensure the effectiveness of help. Every affiliated country realises STANAG in their military. This should ensure that all the supplies and other goods from the one country can also be easily used by another country. This however did not always happen so fluently.
STANAG has led, amongst other things, to the design and production of the FAL, a rifle meant to equip all soldiers of each affiliated country. There were however discussions about the right calibre. The US demanded enough stopping power, but the light rifle was not designed for heavy calibres. This would give problems if the weapon would be fired fully automatic, the standardisation of munition did happen successfully however.
The number of guidelines for standardisation is already almost at 1300.
The primary task was the streamlining of military effectiveness and standards of the affiliated countries. NATO however knows more programs for international affairs. Different programs were running to keep good relationships between countries. The Partnership for Peace had to ensure for a better relationship between Western and ex-Soviet countries. The Mediterranean Dialogue had to ensure communication and discussion between Western countries and the countries in the north of Africa and Israel. The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative was called into life with the same goal as the Mediterranean Dialogue, but then for the communication with the Middle East.
Now the NATO knows many more members than when the organisation was founded. Especially many countries in Eastern Europe have been able to join the organisation. The Treaty of Warsaw fell apart after the destruction of the Soviet Union, and since then multiple countries that had initially signed the Treaty of Warsaw, now joined the NATO. The allied members (and the year of joining) at this moment:
The Netherlands 1949
United Kingdom 1949
United States 1949
Czech Republic 1999
In the article in which the core of the treaty is described, article 5, has only been applied once for real. This happened after the attacks on the World Trade Center, 11 September 2001. The NATO then employed scouting planes to help the Americans. However, there have been asked for helped more often. Well known are the Dutch Patriot Rockets, that have gone to Turkey in 2013. The Netherlands sent forces and rockets to protect the border with Syria and fend off attacks of rockets and grenades.
The past decennia the expenses for defence have virtually dropped in every affiliated country. This is because of a long lasting peace and rest, the threat of war has dramatically decreased. Especially after the end of the cold war and at the end of the Soviet Union. This ended however when Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014. The expenses in Defence could no longer go down, troops have been positioned at the borders of the NATO area. Especially the Baltic states fear their sovereignty after the annexation of Crimea.
The mobilisation of a military in case of a conflict has been practiced. This however led to a mobilisation of Russian troops and practice at their own borders.
The countries Finland and Sweden are no members of the NATO. Sweden is not a member to keep their neutrality and Finland wanted to avoid conflicts with their neighbour Russia. After the incidents at Crimea, agreements have been made and NATO troops can also be deployed there in case of a conflict.
Recently countries in Europe have been shaken by the appointing of Donald Trump as president of the United States. Sayings by him about NATO caused for concerns. He stated that the share that the US had, looking at the costs of the NATO, were not in proportion to the rest of the affiliated countries. And indeed many do not make the minimal 2% of the GDP which should go into defence according to NATO agreements. Trump states that the US may no longer offer protection of the allied countries if they do not contribute enough to their own defence. The Netherlands is also below the 2% norm, the deficit would now amount to about 8 billion euros.