NATO — the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — also known as the North Atlantic Alliance, is a military alliance comprising 28 European and two North American countries and plays a major role in the United States’ National Security Strategy. NATO is vital to the security and freedom of its member states and the importance of this transatlantic security alliance should not be underestimated as it offers significant protections and assurances for America’s national defense.
Major General Maranian Addresses the Necessity of International Alliances
Ultimately, NATO is both a military and political presence. The intergovernmental body ensures that members maintain strength and security through assured and appropriate responses to outside threats and actions.
The cornerstone of NATO’s success over the 73 years since it was founded in 1949 is the principle of consensus. Allies must agree and work in close collaboration to remain aligned. This principle has become increasingly important as the alliance has grown from its original 12 members to its current 30. The likely accession of Finland and Sweden will grow the alliance to 32.
There is an old saying that “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” The consensus-based togetherness of the NATO member states is as vitally important today as it was before the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991. One only needs to look east to Ukraine to see that the hopes that the fall of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact did not lead to a permanent peace on the European continent.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but Russian aggression against this sovereign nation poses a threat to security in Europe, and to the vital interests of many members of the alliance. The Russian invasion of Ukraine represents the most significant threat to Euro-Atlantic security since the cold war and has shattered peace in the region.
To maintain a credible and effective posture in the region, NATO activated defense mechanisms, deploying the NATO Response Force to its eastern flank, and the solidarity of the 30 provides assurance to the member states of NATO. To some, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may appear far removed from domestic issues but it is not isolated. History has proven time and again that distant conflicts can quickly escalate and have far-reaching effects globally.
NATO’s Role in Domestic Security
Collective security is the first and foremost of NATO’s missions. As codified in Article 5 of the North Atlantic charter, an attack on one is considered to be an attack on all. In its 73-year history, the alliance has only invoked Article 5 once – in 2001 following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
While Article 3 requires member nations to first and foremost provide for their own security, the cohesion and partnership of 30 nations provides significant domestic security to each, and in turn deters aggression against the member states individually and the alliance writ large. International threats or bad actors are less likely to attack an ally when they know such actions will initiate a unified response from several other countries.
Major General Maranian Addresses National Defense and International Relations
Each NATO ally helps the others. The goal of the alliance is to create strength through interconnectedness. In essence, NATO helps protect freedom and ensure security by enhancing resilience across borders. The organization helps each ally prepare for, adapt to, respond to, and recover from various threats and hazards. The stability provided by alliances enables nations to thrive economically and grow their influence and relevance on the global stage.
NATO and other US allies represent companionship amongst nations with similar values and national interests in a vast and diverse world. As borders become less guarded in the digital age, partnerships such as the NATO Alliance are essential to ensuring sovereignty of countries and providing security to the United States of America.