The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (French: Organisation du Traité de l'Atlantique Nord; OTAN), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between several North American and European states based on the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed on April 4th, 1949.
NATO constitutes a system of collective defense whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party. Three NATO members (the United States, France and the United Kingdom) are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with the power to veto and are officially nuclear-weapon states. NATO Headquarters are located in Haren, Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium.
NATO is an alliance that consists of thirty-two independent member countries across North America and Europe. An additional twenty-one countries participate in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, with fifteen other countries involved in institutionalized dialogue programs. The combined military spending of all NATO members constitutes over 70% of the global total. Members' defense spending is supposed to amount to at least 2% of GDP.
NATO was little more than a political association until the Korean War galvanized the organization's member states, and an integrated military structure was built up under the direction of two US Supreme Commanders. The course of the Cold War led to a rivalry with nations of the Warsaw Pact, that formed in 1955. Doubts over the strength of the relationship between the European states and the United States ebbed and flowed, along with doubts over the credibility of the NATO defense against a prospective Soviet invasion—doubts that led to the development of the independent French nuclear deterrent and the withdrawal of France from NATO's military structure in 1966 for thirty years. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany in 1989, the organization became involved in the breakup of Yugoslavia, and conducted its first military interventions in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995 and later Yugoslavia in 1999. Politically, the organization sought better relations with former Warsaw Pact countries, several of which joined the alliance in 1999 and 2004.