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|North Atlantic Treaty Organization|
|Formation:||April 4 1949|
|Motto:||Animus in consulendo libe|
NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a defensive alliance of several nations bordering the Northern Atlantic Ocean. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium. Prominent members include the USA, the United Kingdom; about a half of European countries belong to NATO (including France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Portugal)
Nato was formed during the Cold War to defend members against the Soviet Union and it allies. Nato is still important to the extent that Russia and Terrorism are a threat. The members of Nato have agreed that an attack against one is an attack against all. If one NATO country is attacked the attacker risks being attacked itself by several or even all other NATO countries.
Though its Cold War counterpart the Warsaw Pact is defunct, NATO continues and has been expanding with many former Communist countries joining. This is a major cause of friction with Russia, as depending on your point of view this is either intimidating, or interfering in their ability to bully their neighbours.
Historically there have been several sources of tension within NATO. Thus far it has avoided the same fate as the Delian League , but the propensity of the USA to elect stupid amoral Presidents such as Ronald Reagan leaves one with little hope that they can avoid repeating the mistakes that lead to the junior partners in the Delian League regretting their membership.
NATO contains three Nuclear powers, the USA, UK and France, and during the Cold War had a strategy of countering Warsaw pact superiority of conventional force numbers with a fallback of battlefield nuclear weapons. This was often unpopular with the residents of the countries where the nukes would have exploded.
The USA and to an extent Canada had an interest in long range nuclear weapons being treated as far more dangerous than short range weapons because long range nukes from the Warsaw pact could kill Americans and Canadians, whilst short and Medium range weapons could only kill Europeans and Alaskans. Europeans sometimes had a different perspective on this.
Many people across all NATO countries were morally outraged at Nuclear weapons as weapons of mass destruction, and see membership of NATO as a de facto endorsement of Nuclear Weapons even if their own country doesn't have them.
Siting of Nuclear Weapons on bases has been a source of friction and civil disturbance in countries which have hosted US nuclear weapons. Aside from the ethical concerns there is also the concern that such weapons might be used at US command - involving a country in war without Democratic decision by the host country. This is more of an issue for Nuclear weapons than it is for conventional forces because the speed of their use makes convoluted decision making between allies difficult if not impossible.
The United States was and is as populous, wealthy and militarily powerful as several if not all its NATO allies combined, this inevitably skewed the dynamic of the Alliance and made it difficult for the alliance to avoid becoming a de facto American Empire. This lead to France partially withdrawing from NATO. Expansion of NATO has reduced the US dominance in population terms, and the collapse of the Soviet Union has greatly reduced the short and medium term threats to many NATO members. With many NATO countries having significant Political parties that want to withdraw from NATO it is only a matter of time before NATO has to face the scenario of members leaving because they don't perceive a need to contribute to the common defence - or would rather do as Eire does and contribute peacekeepers to the United Nations instead.
The USA lacks a proper welfare state and instead has unusually high military expenditure - at times matching the rest of the world combined. This causes resentment amongst some Americans who think that NATO allies should increase their defence spending to American levels, and concern among some of America's allies, friends and many others as to why one country wants to spend as much on defence as everyone else combined.
Low wage countries such as Turkey also counter this by pointing out that judging things purely on money undervalues the contribution of countries like them where military personnel earn less than in the US.
NATO's raison d'etre was as a defensive alliance, which many theorists consider is a stabilising and ethically sound international arrangement, as opposed to offensive alliances which at best are a bullies charter and tend to cause wars. During his Oil Crusades Dubya tried to invoke NATO as an offensive alliance, undermining its argument to be an ethically acceptable organisation.
NATO is underpinned by a network of bases to pre-position military forces from countries far from the Warsaw Pact close to the potential frontline. This occasionally resulted in tensions between host countries and deploying countries due to criminal behaviour by troops from those bases.
During the Dubya era this also lead to disputes because Americans didn't just commit torture and kidnap people on their own soil, they used some of the bases they had in allied states to commit some of their war crimes on allied soil, see Extraordinary Rendition. This was a betrayal of the rationale behind NATO and unless the Governments who host those bases are able to extradite Dubya et al to stand trial for these crimes it makes them an accessory to torture and kidnap.