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North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) 

NATO is a multilateral political and military alliance. Because of international security developments, the organization has started to assume more and more the role of a crisis management organisation.

Meeting of NATO and Partner Chiefs of Defence - NATO HQ - 5-6 May 2010 (Nato's photo gallery)Meeting of NATO and Partner Chiefs of Defence - NATO HQ - 5-6 May 2010 (Nato's photo gallery)

Basic information about NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was established in April 1949. In accordance with the Treaty, NATO is a collective defence organization committed to safeguarding the freedom and security of its member countries by political and military means.

NATO's fundamental territorial defence task, based on Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, served as the basis of the Alliance's existence until the demise of the Soviet Union.

Even though the Alliance's basic mission still is to provide credible security guarantees to its member countries, the focal point of its functions has shifted towards military crisis management. Furthermore, NATO has to make adjustments in its activities because of new security threats, such as terrorism, spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), failed or failing states and environmental disasters.

NATO has enlarged several times after its establishment and now is an organization of 28 European and North American countries. The most recent enlargement took place in 2009, when Albania and Croatia joined the Alliance. 22 of the 28 EU Member States are also members of NATO.

The North Atlantic Treaty

The North Atlantic Treaty
(Nato's website)

NATO's main tasks

NATO's fundamental tasks include

  • promotion of the security of the Euro-Atlantic region
  • political consultations
  • provision of security guarantees to the member countries
  • crisis management
  • promotion of partnerships, cooperation and dialogue with the countries that are not members of the Alliance.

Cooperation and partnership arrangements

NATO and Russia decided about the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) at the NATO-Russia Summit in Rome on 28 May 2002. The NRC comprises the NATO member countries and Russia and it meets in a 29-format of formally equal partners.

As a rule, NATO countries do not coordinate their positions prior to the meetings. The NRC concentrates on the promotion of political dialogue, anti-terrorist measures, and cooperation and consultations between military representatives, including stabilisation of Afghanistan. The crisis in Georgia in autumn 2008 led to a suspension of the political relations between NATO and Russia, but the parties agreed to resume the functions of the NRC in 2009. In 2010, the NRC met at Heads of State level.

The formal basis for NATO-Ukraine relations, the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership, which was signed in 1997, determines the key areas of NATO-Ukraine cooperation and lays a foundation for the work of the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC). A similar cooperation body, NATO-Georgia Commission, NGC, was established between NATO and Georgia in September 2008.

The Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) was initiated in 1994 simultaneously with the Partnership for Peace (PfP). The following countries are participating in the MD: Egypt, Israel, Mauritania, Morocco, Jordan, Tunis and Algeria.

The Istanbul Co-operation Initiative (ICI), a cooperative initiative to be implemented with the Persian Gulf countries, was introduced in the Istanbul Summit of 2004. Four countries bordering the Persian Gulf are participating in the ICI.

NATO is also engaged in cooperation with the so-called contact countries, such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The contact countries have also contributed substantially to NATO-led crisis management in Afghanistan. Australia is the contact country that has contributed the most troops to the ISAF operation.

Decision-making system

NATO is not on a supranational organisation but an intergovernmental cooperative organ, divided into political and military structures. All military action of the Alliance is subject to political decision-making. All NATO decisions are made by consensus, that is, reaching a decision requires that it is accepted by all member countries.

NATO's highest decision-making body is the North Atlantic Council (NAC). The Council does not vote nor does it recognize majority decisions. NATO as an organisation cannot engage in any measure without an unanimous decision of its member countries.

Ministerial communiqués, adopted every six months, are important documents corresponding to the conclusions of EU summit meetings. They deal with topical issues in NATO and the goals of further action.

NATO operations

The largest NATO-led operations are the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, which have been taken on under UN Security Council Resolutions.

Participation in these missions is a part of international crisis management and Finland contributes staff to both operations together with several other non-NATO countries.

Other issues on NATO's agenda

In addition to the development of its military crisis management and military capabilities, NATO is active in other areas, such as civil emergency planning. NATO and its Partner countries develop their capacity to assume tasks linked with rescue service and other civilian action at a time of a crisis or disaster.


pdfEffects of Finland's possible Nato membership, MFA 21 December 2007 (PDF) 

See also: Impact of Finland’s possible NATO membership – new Ministry for Foreign Affairs report published (MFA, Press Releases, 12/21/2007)


pdfMap: Finnish participation in crisis management operations (PDF)

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