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NATO: from1949

In 1949 the USA and Canada, together with ten western European nations (Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, UK) agree to set up defensive alliance, to be known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Responding to the new reality of the iron curtain and the domination of eastern Europe by the USSR, the signatories agree to treat an attack on any one of them as an attack upon all. Greece and Turkey join in 1952, to be followed by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955. (This rearming of west Germany provokes the USSR into forming its own similar Warsaw Pact between east European countries). The newly democratic kingdom of Spain joins in 1982.


France plays a lesser role than other members for much of NATO's history because President de Gaulle, irritated at US dominance within the alliance, insists in 1966 that all NATO personnel leave French soil. The headquarters, previously in France, is moved to Brussels.

In 1990, after the breach of the Berlin Wall and the ending of the iron curtain, the NATO countries redefine their role - agreeing to reduce NATO forces by up to 30% and to create a new streamlined corps capable of rapid reaction to a crisis. However the corps as such is not yet in place when NATO encounters the first circumstance in fifty years to prompt a military response from the organization - the Kosovo crisis of 1999.


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