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It has traditionally stated its general ayên as being lớn "safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation" of its members by promoting "stability và well-being in the North Atlantic area".
Members agree that an armed attack against one shall be considered an attack against them all, and that they will come to lớn the aid of one another.
Originally consisting of 12 countries, the organisation expanded lớn include Greece và Turkey in 1952 và West Germany in 1955. However, then, as now, the alliance was militarily dominated by the United States.
In 1955 the Soviet Union created a counter-alliance called the Warsaw Pact, which dissolved after the break-up of the USSR in 1991.
The Czech Republic, Hungary and Pol& became the first former Warsaw Pact countries to gain Nalớn membership in 1999.
The next historic step came in 2004 when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, republics of the USSR until its collapse in 1991, along with Slovenia, Slovacơ, Bulgaria & Romania were welcomed as Nalớn members at a ceremony in Washington.
Nakhổng lồ was mix up in the post-World War II atmosphere of anxiety, largely lớn bloông xã Soviet expansion inlớn Europe. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 & subsequent demise of the Warsaw Pact, therefore, left Nato lớn with no obvious purpose.
Since then Nakhổng lồ has used its defensive sầu role to lớn justify a more proactive sầu approach to lớn "out of area" activities - arguing that instability in any part of Europe would constitute a threat lớn its members.
Thus, at the end of 1995 it organised its first ever multinational Implementation Force (Ifor), under a United Nations mandate to implement the military aspects of the Bosnian peace agreement.
In 1999 the alliance launched an 11-week chiến dịch of air strikes against Yugoslavia khổng lồ push Serb forces out of Kosovo. The strikes were the largest military operation ever undertaken by Nato, và the first time it had used force against a sovereign state without UN approval. The Nato peacekeeping force remains in Kosovo, although it has been scaled down from 16,000 to about 6,000 by 2012.
In 2003 Nalớn took its operations outside Europe for the first time when it assumed strategic command of the UN-mandated peacekeeping force in và immediately around the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Nalớn embarked on a series of steps designed khổng lồ build new relationships with former Warsaw Pact countries & particularly with Russia, which was profoundly suspicious of the alliance's plans khổng lồ exp& eastwards.
In 1994 Nalớn offered former Warsaw Pact members limited associations in the size of the Partnership for Peace programme, allowing them khổng lồ participate in information sharing, joint exercises và peacekeeping operations.
But this simply appeared khổng lồ confirm Russian fears that Nalớn posed a creeping threat khổng lồ its security.
The Nato-Russia Permanent Joint Council was established in May 1997 to lớn give Russia a consultative role in discussion of matters of mutual interest. While Moscow was given a voice, it rarely felt that it was really listened khổng lồ.
Russia's fears intensified when in 1999 the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland became the first former Soviet bloc states khổng lồ join Nakhổng lồ, bringing the alliance's borders 400 miles closer to the Russian frontier.
The 11 September 2001 attacks on targets in the US were a pivotal moment for Nakhổng lồ. The US did not involve the alliance in the international military campaign that followed, even though Secretary-General George Robertson quickly invoked Article Five sầu of the Nalớn constitution declaring an attachồng on one thành viên khổng lồ be an attaông chồng on all.
Russia's supportive reaction following the attacks proved khổng lồ be the catalyst for a thaw in relations with Moscow. The establishment of the Nato-Russia Council was agreed in May 2002. This body gives Russia an equal role with the Nakhổng lồ countries in decision-making on policy to counter terrorism & other security threats.
However, the relationship with Russia continued khổng lồ be difficult. Russia was unhappy that the Nato lớn expansion of early 2004 brought the alliance to lớn its borders. Relations took a marked turn for the worse after the brief Russo-Georgian war of August 2008, when Nalớn announced that cooperation would be suspended until Moscow pulled all its troops out of Georgia.
Relations improved after Baraông xã Obama assumed the US presidency in January 2009, and Nato lớn announced in March 2009 that it would be resuming high-level contacts with Russia.
However, relations took a turn for the worse in năm trước when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine và was accused of supporting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. The developments appeared to lớn give sầu Nakhổng lồ, which some described as a Cold War relic, new relevance.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Ukraine crisis "reminds us just how important Nato lớn is. The idea of collective defence has become more important given how Russia is using force khổng lồ change borders in Europe."
Disputes between Germany, France & the US over the 2003 invasion of Iraq caused one of the worst crises in Nato lớn history. The alliance itself played no part in the invasion, although most member countries did. It later assisted in training Iraqi security forces.
Nakhổng lồ has since shaped a new role for itself. It took command of the international peacekeeping force in Afghanisrã in 2003 as part of a growing awareness of the global terrorist threat, and mix up a 9,000-svào rapid reaction force for swift deployment to trouble spots anywhere in the world.
However, the reluctance of many Nato lớn governments to lớn supply reinforcements for the Afghan mission raised questions about the alliance's ability to sustain such large-scale operations.
At a key summit held in Lisbon in November 2010 the alliance adopted a new "strategic concept" or mission statement that pledged it lớn cut costs while prioritising defence against new emerging threats, such as cyber-attacks.
Nato allies also agreed to deploy a missile defence system lớn cover all of the territory of its European members, complementing US plans for a missile defence shield.
And agreement was secured on moving towards Afghan control of internal security, which is due to lớn begin in July 2011 & envisages full Afghan control by the end of 2014.
The imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya in March 2011 posed a tricky problem for the alliance. Although countries such as Britain & the US were keen for Nato to play a major role in heading the operation, some Arab governments were initially uneasy at the prospect of Nato lớn command.
Following a period of disagreement & confusion, Nato lớn agreed to take on the responsibility of enforcing the no-fly zone, which proved crucial in defeating pro-Gaddafi forces in October.
He has repeatedly complained that Europe's Nato lớn members are not spending enough on the alliance. In October, he pulled forces out of northern Syria without consulting European Nato members.
In November, just a month before the 70th anniversary of Nalớn, French President Emmanuel Macron described Nakhổng lồ as "brain dead".